7 Ways Physical Therapy Can Help With Arthritis
7 Ways Physical Therapy Can Help With Arthritis
In the United States, one in four adults live with some form of arthritis, and 10% say their symptoms interfere with daily activities. If you’re looking for a non-invasive, natural way to improve your quality of life, you may be wondering, does physical therapy help arthritis? For many patients living with arthritis and other joint conditions, the answer is a resounding yes! Learn about 7 ways physical therapy can help arthritis and help you feel better and move more every day.
How does PT help with arthritis?
Pain is a clue that something is going on in the body that needs attention, and should never be dismissed. Joint pain is one of the most common types of chronic pain, with chronic pain defined as pain that occurs on at least half of the days over a six-month period.
Chronic pain not only affects a person’s quality of life. Over time, chronic pain can increase the risk of anxiety, depression, and other mood disorders. Physical therapy is often recommended for people with chronic arthritis pain because of the many benefits it offers.
7 ways physical therapy can help with arthritis:
- reduce pain as exercise, hydrotherapy, and other gentle, non-invasive treatments are offered
- Increase mobility with strategic physical activity designed to protect affected joints
- strengthen the muscles around the joints to encourage pain-free range of motion
- Improve gait and balance that may be compromised due to postural changes related to arthritis
- Counteract stiffness through safe and gentle exercise and hands-on therapy
- Encourage healthy lifestyle choices to protect bone and joint health, maintain a healthy weight, and eat a nutritious diet
- Improve mood as patients begin to feel better and have less pain
Which physical therapy programs are most beneficial for patients with arthritis?
No two physical therapy programs are alike. Each arthritis management plan is customized for the age, diagnosis, and symptoms of the patient. But they all have one thing in common: They improve the lives of patients suffering from arthritis pain.
Here are the most common physical therapy programs used to achieve that goal.
It may seem counterintuitive to start moving if you have body pain or stiffness. But exercise is actually one of the best ways to reduce arthritis symptoms and prevent disability, especially for individuals with osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis.
Known as a “wear-and-tear” disease, osteoarthritis occurs when the cartilage that cushions the joints breaks down due to age, injury or overuse. Treatment for osteoarthritis and other common types of arthritis consists of a combination of therapies that include physical activity.
Exercise serves many purposes. It lubricates joints for smooth movement and builds muscle strength for joint stability. Regular exercise improves balance and coordination which also helps prevent injuries.
After an initial physical therapy exam to assess your symptoms and health and wellness goals, your therapist creates an exercise program that includes low-impact, pain-free movements that won’t twist, pound, or strain weak joints. Continue the exercises you learned in the physical therapy clinic at home to combat pain and stiffness every day.
Aquatic therapy, or water therapy, is a physical therapy technique that offers all the benefits of traditional, land-based exercise — but with less stress on the body’s joints. This makes water-based therapy ideal for patients with arthritis and other conditions that impair mobility and function.
Because water is buoyant, it supports the patient’s weight against the effects of gravity. Water has 12 times the resistance of air, making it a safe and effective environment for building muscle strength.
Arthritis patients find that aquatic therapy allows them to move independently without pain, improve flexibility and mobility, and get stronger without weight. To combat the swelling commonly associated with arthritis, the underwater pressure also increases blood flow and reduces swelling.
Weight is an important consideration for anyone with arthritis. The reality is that being overweight puts more stress on damaged and inflamed joints. According to the Arthritis Foundation, being just 10 pounds overweight translates to an extra 15 to 50 pounds of weight on your knees, which are the joints most affected by arthritis.
Added weight also accelerates the breakdown of cartilage, further weakening the joints. Fat also contains proteins that travel throughout the body and cause inflammation, even in joints that are not weight-bearing. These are just some of the reasons why individuals with arthritis should make maintaining a healthy weight a priority.
Physical therapy is a tool to safely and gradually lose weight with strategic, low-impact exercise and lifestyle modifications under the supervision of a trained physical therapist. Your doctor will monitor your progress and adjust your treatment plan as your needs and goals change over time. Getting healthy is a lifelong journey and your doctor is there to guide you every step of the way.
Learning about your condition and the best ways to stay healthy isn’t the same as getting up and moving your body. But education about how your lifestyle choices affect your mind and body is just as important as exercise for arthritis patients.
See your doctor for tips on the best foods to eat for your condition, safe modifications to your daily activities, and tips for sitting, walking, sleeping and maintaining good posture for happy and healthy muscles and bones.
Think of your physical therapist as a teacher who is there to help you make informed decisions to improve your quality of life and be as active as you want to be. Don’t hesitate to ask questions and share any concerns as you move forward in your physical therapy journey.
An arthritis diagnosis doesn’t mean you have to say goodbye to activities you enjoy or give up your independence. Physical therapy is a tool that helps you stay mobile and pain-free through individualized exercises and treatments.
So, we have answered the question, does PT help arthritis? Are you ready to learn how physical therapy can make a difference for you? Find a physical therapy clinic near you.