Frustrated by your chronic joint pain? See how physical therapy can help relieve arthritis pain.

June 22nd, 2020
Frustrated by your chronic joint pain

The latest study revealed an estimated 54.4 million US adults have diagnosed arthritis—about 1 in 4 Americans. Of those, about 27% report experiencing severe joint pain.

Types of Arthritis

There are many types of arthritis, but osteoarthritis is the most common type. The cushioning surface on the bones wears away, and bone rubs against bone. The joints can lose strength, and joint pain is often chronic. With inflammatory arthritis, the immune system goes awry. It attacks the joints with inflammation. This can cause joint erosion and joint pain. Infectious arthritis occurs when a virus or bacteria enters the joint. Even though antibiotics may end the infection, arthritis can become chronic. Metabolic arthritis is due to too much uric acid in the body. It can build up and cause chronic joint pain.

Physical Therapy for Arthritis

Physical therapy focuses on improving mobility for those with arthritis. It also restores the use of affected joints, reduces pain and strengthens muscles to support the joints. A physical therapist will create an individualized treatment plan to improve flexibility, coordination and strength for maximum physical function.

Specifically, a physical therapist will use exercise and manual therapy to treat arthritis. Strengthening exercises and weight-bearing exercises are implemented to improve joint lubrication. This helps reduce the pain associated with arthritis. A physical therapist will develop a treatment plan that targets all areas of the body affecting the pain. For example, if you suffer from knee pain, the exercise regimen will include proper knee mechanics and the lower back, ankle and hip. Physical therapists also use various manual therapy techniques like joint and soft tissue mobilization to treat the symptoms of arthritis.

Joint mobilization entails the moving of a joint through working with a natural level of resistance. This technique helps stretch and strengthen the tissue surrounding bone and reduces pain and increases range of motion. Other passive modalities that a physical therapist may use to treat pain from arthritis include ultrasound, transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS), cryotherapy or heat. TENS utilizes electrodes to trick the pain from feeling pain. Ultrasound utilizes heat to help the deep tissues of joints. It helps reduce inflammation and pain. Cryotherapy reduces inflammation and swelling. All around, physical therapy is a holistic treatment for arthritis.

Physical Therapy vs Surgery

According to Harvard Health Publishing, “Trying physical therapy before opting for surgery may be the better choice. You may be able to spare yourself the expense, pain, and recovery time of surgery, says physical therapist Karen Weber, clinical supervisor at Harvard-affiliated Spaulding Rehabilitation Outpatient Centers in Braintree and Quincy, Mass. There is growing evidence supporting that idea. In the past few years, studies have indicated that physical therapy is just as effective as surgery for relieving pain and restoring function for people with arthritis in their knees or backs.”

If you’re suffering from arthritis, it’s wise to consider physical therapy. Not only is it non-invasive, you may be able to throw away those pain meds. The goal of physical therapy is to help you live an active, pain-free life.

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