How Physical Therapy Can Help Your Arthritis Pain
By Dr. Frank J. Scerbo, PT, DPT, MS, CSCS
Do you have stiff, achy, painful joints? You’re not alone. An estimated 54 million adults are living with arthritis, or chronic inflammation of the joints. As it progresses, arthritis can cause both joint inflammation and muscle weakness around the affected joint that interferes with your daily activities.
Exercise is one of the best ways to improve pain, stiffness, and decreased range of motion, which are common symptoms of arthritis. Many people with arthritis avoid exercise because they fear it will be painful—probably because they’ve tried and it was. But we know through research that people with arthritis can exercise without worsening their pain.
If you’ve tried to exercise and stopped because of pain, you may want to consider working with our Scerbo physical therapists. We can work with you to develop a customized, safe, and effective strengthening and conditioning program that will help reduce your pain while improving your mobility and function.
Generally, people with arthritis need to increase their exercise routines more gradually than non-arthritic people. At Scerbo, your physical therapist will partner with you to develop a program tailored specifically to your level of function and your goals. Walking, cycling, and swimming are great forms of cardiovascular exercise, but strength training and stretching are equally important. The trick is to do the right exercises, in the right way, at the right time.
Regular physical activity can also benefit your physical, mental, and social health, and prevent or improve many chronic conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes, obesity, depression, and some cancers.
In addition to exercise, physical therapy treatments include:
- Posture: Your therapist will teach you various body mechanic techniques that will improve joint function and reduce pain. You will also be taught ways to use your strongest muscles and joints to relieve pressure on arthritic joints.
- Education: Sometimes arthritis in the hip or knee will require the use of an assistive mobility device, such as a cane or walker. Your physical therapist will teach you the proper way to use these devices.
- Treatments: Modern physical therapy has a broad range of treatment options available to assist with arthritis pain. Hot and cold therapy can relieve the pain and stiffness in joints; braces or splints can help to stabilize and support arthritic joints; shoe inserts can relieve arthritis pain in the lower extremities; and so on.
- Environment Modifications: Your physical therapist can make specific recommendations for additional therapeutic aids based on your type of arthritis. These can include ergonomic furniture or cushioned mats in areas of your home or at work where you tend to stand on your feet for long periods of time.
As we go into a new year, don’t suffer any longer with arthritis pain – our physical therapists are here to help. If you have questions about how an exercise program can help address your arthritis symptoms, contact us today for a physical evaluation with our Clinical Director, Dr. Frank J. Scerbo.