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Can Physical Therapy Help With My Arthritis Pain?

doctor assessing physical therapy for arthritis

As we get older, there are physical changes that happen naturally in our bodies. Osteoarthritis is a common example. Arthritis can lead to a loss of joint mobility, swelling, pain and overtime weakness from decreased activity. It is a chronic condition that requires long-term management to minimize symptoms and prevent or slow disease progression. Just because you have arthritis, however, does not mean you have to live in pain!

Arthritis happens when joint cartilage begins to wear down. The cushion between your joints begin to degrade and decrease in space. Inflammation occurs in the joint and can affect all the surrounding tissue there. Although doctors commonly report, ‘you’re bone-on-bone!’ there are other structures such as tendons, synovium, ligaments, etc that can also be affected. The ends of the bones may also develop bone spurs which can also contribute to pain. Keep in mind that not everyone with arthritis has pain, and not everyone with joint pain has arthritis.

What Are Risk Factors for Developing OA?

Although osteoarthritis is a natural process of aging, there are many factors that play a role in developing it. Altered biomechanical forces on the joint or imbalances that increase stress on the joint can contribute to your risk of developing OA. Obesity, malalignment, repetitive joint use (such as in jobs that require repetitive actions) also play a role. Even inflammatory processes can speed up development of OA. There is also a genetic component to developing arthritis that can affect progression and severity. The presentation of OA is varied as is its disease progression.

Physical Therapy for Arthritis

Physical therapy can help in a lot of different ways. One way is by helping you improve your joint mobility. It is very common to lose mobility in your affected joints if you do not address it early. Without proper range of motion, it becomes much harder for your muscles to work in the most efficient way they were designed to. You can begin to lose flexibility, stability or deal with tenderness to your muscles. Therefore, strength, flexibility, and stability also need to be addressed. Physical therapist can prescribe exercises to help you address these components. They can also use highly skilled techniques in manual therapy to physically assist your joints and muscles for better function. At Monica Deutsch Physical Therapy, we use several kinds of techniques such as soft tissue mobilization, instrument-assisted soft tissue mobilization (IASTM), muscle energy techniques, active release techniques, joint mobilization, neural mobilization and more to help improve your symptoms and overall function.

Another important area to address is your strength. Research shows that strengthening muscles around the affected joint, as well as above and below the joint, is very effective at decreasing overall pain. If you are strong, your joints will be able to handle physical stress much better. You want to give your body the best foundation to continue living your life as you wish. In fact, research states exercise and education delivered by a PT should be the first treatment for hip and knee osteoarthritis. Exercise (and weight loss, if appropriate) can provide at least equivalent pain-relief as pharmaceuticals, without any serious side-effects. Research shows a combination of manual therapy in conjunction with exercise therapy shows the most substantial improvement in overall pain and function than either option alone.

Once you begin dealing with pain, it's common to alter the way you do things, because of the pain! This can lead to a cycle of more pain and potential injury due to improper alignment with functional activities. PTs can spot these compensations and teach you how to best perform your activities of daily living without compromising other body joints. Do not underestimate your biomechanics! At Monica Deutsch Physical Therapy, a trained physical therapist will look at your biomechanics and teach you how to move more efficiently to decrease further potential injury from occurring.

All these components can help ease your arthritis pain. Eventually, surgery may be an option for you, however you should always start with conservative treatment, such as physical therapy for arthritis, prior to going under the knife. Surgeries often have long recovery times as well, so it is not always such a fast fix people hope it to be. Plus, the stronger and healthier you are going into surgery, the faster your recovery time will be.

Remember, just because you see changes on an X-ray doesn’t mean you have to live the rest of your life in pain! For further information or a free consultation to see if therapy is right for you, please use our contact page to get in touch! We provide in-home physical therapy services to individuals in Redlands, Highland, Running Springs, Lake Arrowhead, Cedar Glen and Twin Peaks!


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