Do you feel like the Tin Man from The Wizard of Oz, barely able to move thanks to stiff, painful joints? Does arthritis pain prevent you from going about your daily activities and living the life you want to live? Believe it or not, those painful joints may bother you less once you start using them more. Physical therapy can provide a number of benefits, from wider range of motion to greater joint strength and stability — without the risks and side effects of anti-inflammatory medications. Our physical therapist will be happy to help you conquer your arthritis pain, so contact Appalachian Physical Therapy today!
What Is Arthritis?
Arthritis can prove as confusing as it is painful, partly because there are so many possible causes of joint pain and inflammation — over 100 of them, according to the CDC. Conditions ranging from uric acid accumulation to bacterial infection can inflame and damage the body’s various joints. The usual symptoms include swollen, stiff joints that cause pain either constantly or with joint motion.
Causes and Symptoms of Arthritis
The two chief types of arthritis are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Osteoarthritis typically occurs as the end result of many years of ordinary joint usage, although it can also develop more quickly in association with an injury or extreme joint wear. The cartilage that normally permits smooth, friction-free motion within the joint grows thin and breaks up, while at the same time, the joint may start producing less and less of its own natural lubricant fluid. Rheumatoid arthritis tends to occur in periodic flare-ups instead of causing constant pain and deterioration. In this form of arthritis, an immune system reaction attacks the joint components as if they were foreign invaders.
The classic symptoms of arthritis vary according to what type of arthritis you have. Both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis can cause joint pain, swelling, redness and deformation. But rheumatoid arthritis may be accompanied by additional symptoms such as fever, weight loss, weakness and fatigue. It also tends to come and go in acute episodes, while osteoarthritis is more of a constant, progressively worsening presence in your life.
How Physical Therapy Helps Arthritis Pain
If you’re struggling to use your hands, turn your head, or walk even short distances without pain, you might be understandably hesitant to use those arthritis-ridden joints at all. But the truth is that regularly flexing your joints and exercising your body can help you feel and move better. Research indicates that exercise can reduce the pain experienced by arthritis suffers. Based on your particular condition and type of arthritis, our physical therapist may recommend the following kinds of physical therapy exercises:
- Flexibility exercises – These exercises are designed to help you increase your pain-free range of motion. They can be as simple as arm raises or shoulder rolls.
- Strength-building exercises – Gentle, careful weight training, as prescribed by our physical therapist, can lend extra stability to your joints, helping your muscles and connective tissues assume more of the joints’ burden.
- Aerobic exercises – Aerobic exercises boost your circulation. This increase in circulation supports joint tissue health while helping inflammatory substances and excess fluids to exit the joints.
If your weight-bearing joints make walking too painful to contemplate, our physical therapist may prescribe water walking instead. Standing in a water-filled pool reduces the amount of weight your joints must support, allowing you to exercise more easily and comfortably.