Arthritis is a very common reason for disability in the US. According to the CDC, about 23% of Americans have been diagnosed with some kind of arthritis at some point in their life! Individuals that are diagnosed with this disease can be any age, male or female, but arthritis occurs more frequently as one gets older, and most commonly affects women. Although arthritis is very common, it is not well understood. The term is a catch-all word referring to joint pain or joint disease, and symptoms often include joint swelling, pain, stiffness, and limited range of motion.
If you have been diagnosed with this disease, you’re probably wondering how you can improve your pain and other symptoms. Although there are several painkillers you can take to help improve pain temporarily, and invasive surgeries you can receive in severe cases, it is a good idea to ask your doctor if Physical Therapy would be a good fit for you.
In some cases of arthritis, Physical Therapists can help patients increase their range of motion and improve pain as they assist in improving muscle strength around joints. If you have stiff joints from arthritis, physical therapy can improve your ability to bend and straighten that joint. Even if the improvement is small, it can make a huge difference in your daily activities. Arthritis can also cause cartilage to wear away in a joint, which can cause rubbing and be very painful. Therapists can help you pinpoint what muscles you should strengthen in order to reduce this friction and increase stability in your affected joint. The therapist’s other goals can include helping the patient maintain fitness and the ability to perform daily activities. Arthritis often causes balance problems because of muscle weakness and low joint motion. Therapists will assist you in improving balance by having you walk on different kinds of surfaces and different distances, in an effort to mirror daily activities and ultimately reduce your risk of falling.
Physical therapists can also teach you how to alter certain aspects of daily life to improve symptoms. For example, therapists can teach you good posture and how to properly use walkers and canes. Good posture is a simple way to relieve pain on your joints that may already be arthritic. Your therapist can suggest some different ways you can sit, stand, and walk in order to put less stress on your joints. Depending on your case of arthritis, they may also recommend such things as ergonomic chairs or cushioned mats in your kitchen to prevent pain in daily activities. Therapists often recommend helpful supportive options, such as braces, shoe inserts, or even hot and cold therapy to relieve joint pain.
Physical Therapists can give you the tools you need to maintain your pain and mobility, even after you have graduated from sessions with your therapist. Be sure to ask your doctor if Physical Therapy is right for you!