Physical Therapy for Arthritis
Arthritis is a condition that causes pain, stiffness and swelling in the joints. Osteoarthritis is a common form of arthritis caused by the wearing down of the cartilage that protects the bones of a joint. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune condition caused by an inflammation in the lining of the joints. Both forms of arthritis, cause pain, tenderness, and swelling, and may result in loss of movement in the affected joints. Over time, joints affected by arthritis may become severely damaged. Arthritis occurs more frequently in older individuals, however it sometimes develops in athletes from overuse of a joint or after an injury. It can however, affect people of any age, including children.
Therapeutic Methods for Treating Arthritis
A physical therapy program may be effective at keeping joints flexible, increasing mobility, relieving pain and possibly slowing the degenerative process of the disease. Physical therapists can teach proper body mechanics and posture, which may help relieve pain and swelling in joints. A physical therapy program may include:
- Heat treatment
- Range of motion exercises
- Strengthening exercises
- Massage therapy
Walking, swimming, and water-based exercise programs are low impact and generally well tolerated by individuals suffering from arthritis. Physical therapy exercises can help to strengthen muscles to help support and protect joints. This may lessen the degenerative process and alleviate pain and inflammation. If necessary, assistive devices such as canes or walkers may assist individuals with arthritis with mobility. A physical therapist can help the patient become accustomed to any assistive devices.
Occupational therapy, which focuses on specific exercises to help patients recover the skills they use in daily living and at work, may also be performed. Some forms of arthritis may respond to lifestyle changes such as losing weight and eating a healthy diet. Combined with a physical therapy program, these lifestyle adjustments may help individuals with arthritis increase mobility and function, and live a productive life.