According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), almost a quarter of all American adults are living with arthritis! This means that every day, over 54 million people live with stiff, achy, swollen, and sore joints.
If you or a loved one are affected by arthritis in your neck, back, shoulders, wrist, hip, knee, or other joint, we encourage you to call our clinic today to schedule an appointment with a physical therapist. The CDC recognizes physical therapy as one of the most effective “first line” treatments for arthritis pain. Keep reading to find out how we can help!
5 Things a Physical Therapist Can Do For You if You Have Arthritis
A physical therapist can help you control and alleviate your arthritis joint pain without using drugs. By maximizing your joint health through the following techniques, physical therapy may even help you avoid surgery, such as a total knee replacement or total hip replacement.
Here are the top five things your physical therapist can do for you or your loved one with arthritis:
1. Joint Mobilizations and Other Manual Techniques
Arthritis is defined as chronic inflammation and joint cartilage damage that can lead to painful bone on bone contact. Physical therapy joint mobilizations can alleviate the pain caused by this damage and improve joint alignment and mechanics for longer-lasting relief.
Your physical therapist may also prescribe other manual techniques like soft tissue massage and mobilization, or even instruct you in self-myofascial release exercises to ease muscle tension, break up painful scar tissue, and boost healing circulation.
2. Therapeutic Exercises and Stretches
Exercise is a central element to any successful physical therapy program, and especially for someone being treated for arthritis. But how are you supposed to exercise if you’re in constant pain?
While concurrently addressing your pain through other techniques, a physical therapist can teach you exercises and stretches that are a good match to your current ability. Physical therapy exercises are designed explicitly to address your needs, whether that’s to heal tissues, reduce pain and inflammation, increase strength, improve range of motion, reduce abnormal tension on an affected joint, or all of the above.
Your physical therapist can also show you how to adjust or progress a home exercise program and make real-time modifications to help you feel more successful and safe.
Keep in mind that aerobic exercise like walking, swimming, or cycling is considered one of the most effective non-pharmaceutical approaches to alleviating arthritis pain. Let your physical therapist teach you how to safely implement more aerobic exercise into your daily life so that you can get the most out of this beneficial activity.
3. Prescription and Fitting of Adaptive Equipment
Sometimes, a piece of adaptive equipment or other home modification device is necessary to compensate for functional limitations caused by your arthritis and keep you safer as you move about your day. But while adaptive devices can be incredibly cost-effective, it’s not useful to have more than what you need, or to not know how to use it properly.
A physical therapist can introduce you to a variety of adaptive devices that will be the most beneficial for your daily life. We can also make sure you know how to use it correctly and adjust any device to ensure it fits you properly. Devices may include custom orthoses, braces, splints, walkers, crutches, canes, bed canes, long-handled sponges or reachers, benches, and more.
4. Non-Invasive Pain-Relief Modalities
Our physical therapy team uses a range of non-invasive modalities that can enhance the healing effects of exercise and manual therapy techniques. These may include:
- Electrical stimulation, including TENS
- Cold or hot therapy, including cold packs or paraffin wax
- Cold laser therapy
- Therapeutic ultrasound
- Dry needling
5. Patient Education
By increasing your awareness about anatomy, pain, body mechanics, posture, ergonomics, and other relevant information, a physical therapist can help you gain a better understanding of your experience and what you can do (or avoid) to improve your comfort and quality of life.
A Note on Joint Replacement Surgery
For some people with arthritis, joint replacement surgery is on the horizon. Sometimes this more invasive solution is the right “last resort” choice for restoring function and alleviating discomfort, particularly if other conservative treatments have been exhausted.
If this is the case for you, realize that physical therapy is actually considered an essential component to post-operative recovery, and frequently prescribed by orthopedic surgeons. In addition to guiding you through recovery exercises throughout your stages of healing, a physical therapist can also teach you how to follow any activity limitations or precautions specified by your surgeon.
We invite you to think of us if you’re preparing for or recovering from a joint replacement surgery so you can make sure your outcomes turn out well!
Is Arthritis Pain Holding You Back?
Don’t let daily struggles with arthritis pain get you down. Our physical therapy team can provide innovative, research-backed, and individualized services to ease your pain and help you achieve the things that matter to you. Contact us today to schedule an appointment with a physical therapist.