Physical Therapy News Letter July 4, 2016
Arthritis-related pain has been the most common cause of adult pain and disability in the U.S. for the last 15 years and an estimated 294,000 children have some type of arthritis symptoms. To ease the pain and improve mobility, physical therapy offers a non-invasive method that doesn’t rely on prescription medications.
Arthritis is a symptom of more than 150 diseases, syndromes and rheumatic conditions that includes osteoarthritis, gout and fibromyalgia. Most patients overlook the early symptoms of arthritis, assuming that they’re the result of “overdoing it.” Those with access to physical therapy techniques remain mobile longer and therapies offer relief for associated symptoms that include weakness and fatigue.
Arthritis occurs when the joints become inflamed. The inflammation may be caused by wearing away of the bursa that cushions bones or when the immune system attacks the membrane that surrounds the joint. A family history of arthritis increases the risk of developing the condition, along with age, obesity and being female. People who have experienced a previous joint injury are also at increased risk.
The symptoms of arthritis include pain, stiffness and swelling, along with decreased range of motion. The skin often becomes reddened at the affected joint. Depending upon the underlying cause of the arthritis, patients may experience symptoms throughout the day or they may be worse in the morning upon rising. It’s essential that patients obtain a diagnosis, as many of the symptoms can mimic other illnesses.
The symptoms of arthritis may flare and subside in the early stages and may not appear on x-rays and similar diagnostic tests until it has progressed. Inflammation can place pressure on the nerves, resulting in a sensation of burning, tingling or numbness. Posture may be affected, along with the ability to straighten fingers or limbs. Patients may experience difficulty eating and sleeping, pleurisy and general feeling of malaise.
One of the best treatments for arthritis is movement. Physical therapy offers such treatments as yoga and clinical Pilates, along with gentle yet effective ways to stay active and stave off disability. Exercise aids in pain relief and maintaining flexibility, and is tailored to the patient’s level of ability. Also, physical therapy treatment plans can be designed for weight loss that relieves pressure on joints.
Other treatment methods include acupuncture, therapeutic massage, ultrasound and electrical stimulation techniques that ease pain and foster mobility. Massage elevates mood and is effective for rehabilitation should patients undergo joint replacement surgery or joint fusion. Therapists can assist with heat and cold therapies, along with instruction and help with assistive devices to facilitate mobility.
Manual manipulation and aquatic therapy are effective for reducing stress on joints and improving flexibility. Water reduces body weight by 10 percent, making movement and exercise significantly easier. Therapists help patients with environmental accommodations to facilitate performance of everyday tasks, along with bicycles and other equipment that enables patients to remain active.
All of these therapies are designed to relieve pain, improve flexibility and maintain motion, with treatment and management plans tailored to the individual. Arthritis is painful, debilitating and the leading cause of disability, but patients can treat, alleviate and delay effects with physical therapy.