Some of the common questions we get as physical therapists are “How can physical therapy help with arthritis?” or “You can’t do anything about arthritis right?”
The good news is, there are research proven things that we as physical therapists can do to help with arthritis. Let’s first start with some science explaining what arthritis is.
Worn Down Spongy Stuff
Osteoarthritis is when the spongy stuff between your bones (hyaline cartilage and/or fibrocartilage) wears down. As this occurs the bones move closer together which results in ligaments, that connect the bones, going on slack. This slack allows the bones to slide around more which creates greater wear and tear. We call this “degenerative instability,” which is part of the “degenerative cycle” or “degenerative process.”
The good news is many people who are walking around with worn out “spongy stuff” don’t have pain. Multiple research studies have shown the degenerative breakdown of cartilage in a joint or the spine doesn’t equal pain and disability. So, the question becomes, “how can we get your arthritic joint/spine, that is currently inflamed and irritated, back to being pain-free?”
The Big Three
Three things we focus on in physical therapy when treating osteoarthritis or degenerative issues are:
Reducing Pain and Inflammation
Ways we reduce pain and inflammation:
Restoring Range of Motion
If you have had arthritis in an area for years you will often lose range of motion or flexibility of that joint. All of our physical therapists at Hulst Jepsen Physical Therapy are trained in manual therapy and are skilled at helping restore mobility to that joint/spinal segment through soft tissue and/or joint/spine mobilization techniques.
Strengthening and Movement Re-Education
Studies have shown that strengthening exercise is the most important thing you can do to treat arthritis. Here are some reasons why strengthening exercise is key:
Myth – “No Pain, No Gain”
I have had many patients over the years with arthritis/degenerative issues tell me they tried exercise and it only made things worse. The key is targeting the key muscle groups with exercise without increasing joint inflammation. This is why you need a skilled physical therapist to help run you through a safe exercise progression.
Sometimes Low-Impact is Needed
Recently I had a woman with hip arthritis who limped into the clinic and stated she walks two miles per day for exercise even though it hurts. I immediately encouraged her to stop walking for exercise and start using a stationary bike as that produces lower impact forces on her hip joint.
In conclusion, not only is there much that can be done for arthritis, our highly educated and skilled crew of Doctors of Physical Therapy at Hulst Jepsen Physical Therapy are the perfect health professionals to give you the highest level of hands-on, personalized care. I know our crew can help you live a more pain-free life … even with arthritis.