Arthritis, in a nutshell, is a painful inflammation and stiffness of the joints. Despite the many forms and symptoms of arthritis, physical therapy has a long history of helping arthritis sufferers deal not only with the pain from arthritis but even more beneficially limiting the detrimental effects it can bring.
Some of the most common sites for arthritis are:
The body’s natural protective response to pain is to limit activity or rest. Everyday examples of this would be coming in from gardening when your back starts to stiffen up, skipping your daily walk because of hip or knee pain, or not reaching up to the top shelf of the cabinets because of shoulder pain or stiffness. The problem with this is these compensatory habits over time lead to stiffness in joints, from not moving through their full range of motion, and also loss of strength in the muscles. We need this motion and strength to support normal healthy mechanics of our joints. We’ve all heard the old adage if you don’t use it you lose it and this couldn’t be more appropriate in this instance. So over time this loss of motion and strength coupled with the ongoing inflammatory flare ups of arthritis lead to a downward spiral of pain, disability, and loss of quality of life.
Is there Anything that can Help?
So, you might be asking, just how can physical therapy help? My doctor told me there’s no cure. Even though resting a painful swollen joint is the appropriate thing to do during a flare up, when that flare up resolves it’s time to limit the negative effects of that inactivity. Physical therapists are trained to use various hands on manual techniques to mobilize joints and muscles in ways that improve motion and strength particularly in areas that may be hard for you to address. They will also help you regain your strength in affected muscles. This increased strength is vital to a healthy joint because if the muscles around a joint don’t have their natural strength it puts stress and strain on the joint/joints. This can cause more irritation and possibly additional flare ups.
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