Arthritis Anyone? Physical Therapy Can Help

Arthritis Anyone? Physical Therapy Can Help

Written by Angela Wunder, DPT

As a physical therapist I have discussed pain with patients and clients of all ages and backgrounds, and before having any diagnosis, many will attribute their pain to arthritis- and there is a good chance they are right. According to the Arthritis Foundation, 1 in 4 people over age 18 live with a form of Arthritis, and 1 in 250 children have arthritis or a rheumatic condition. So where’s the positive in this? You have something in common with 1 in 4 people you meet! But another other (and more important) positive is that arthritis can be treated conservatively with physical therapy.

The definition for arthritis is simple, yet vague. It basically refers to any joint pain or inflammation. There are too many specific types of arthritis to list, but the most common we will discuss are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

Osteoarthritis (OA) is a degenerative condition that we typically attribute to “wear and tear.” It can be caused by prolonged use, a downstream result of trauma or injury, weight gain, genetics, and much more. Rheumatoid Arthritis is a little different, as this condition (RA) is an autoimmune disease. In this case the body’s immune system attacks its own joint structures and usually occurs in bouts, but just like OA, the end result is joint inflammation and damage often resulting in painful movement.

Why is This Important?

For one, arthritis can greatly affect your quality of life. Joint inflammation and damage results in pain and stiffness that can gradually increase over time. This can affect your ability to participate in physical activity, playing with your children or grandchildren, and even affect every day activities that require walking, sitting, standing, reaching, or lifting, depending on where you experience pain.

Chronic pain can result in use of pain relievers, and while these medications, such as opioids are effective, they can be dangerous and result in dependency. If left untreated, or if conservative treatment is unsuccessful, you could need a surgical procedure. Surgical procedures vary and all have associated risks, costs, and complications.

According to the Arthritis Foundation, arthritis is the #1 cause of disability and can result in lost wages, lost workdays, or create limitations in the work place. Chronic pain conditions result in increased health care costs, from prescriptions, surgical procedures, and out patient visits. Some fun facts:

  • In 2011, arthritis and related conditions accounted for 757,000 knee replacements and 512,000 hip replacements.
  • Arthritis and related conditions accounts for more than $156 billion annually in lost wages and medical expenses and 6.7 million hospitalizations.
  • Arthritis and other non-traumatic joint disorders are among the five most costly conditions among adults 18 and older.

What Can You to Do?

Treatment for arthritic conditions is actually similar to prevention methods. In physical therapy, we can address the underlying condition of muscle imbalances and faulty joint movements. In the case of OA, addressing these underlying issues early on will help to prevent OA in the first place. A physical therapist will provide a thorough examination and help to develop an individualized routine of stretching and exercises and joint mobility activities to get you back to enjoying the activities you enjoy and keep your physical and mental health.

So don’t suffer through the pain, come see us and get started!

image of older man doing physical therapy