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Benefits of Physical Therapy For Arthritis

written by: bevs lim • edited by: Donna Cosmato • updated: 8/26/2010

Are you looking for a non-surgical treatment that could help arthritis? Physical therapy for arthritis can effectively relieve joint pain and inflammation. It will also help in restoring muscles, flexibility and movement. So what are you waiting for? Start moving those joints to ease the pain!

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    Someone said that to understand how arthritis feels, try functioning with clothespin attached to your knuckles. Arthritis literally translates to joint inflammation in Greek. It is a condition involving joint damage; there are over a hundred forms of arthritis. Osteoarthritis, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Septic Arthritis and Psoriatic arthritis are some of the most common among the group.

    Arthritis treatment should ideally include physical therapy. People with this condition often suffer from stiff joints, mostly because they try to avoid movements on that area due to increase pain. However, the pain worsens by not moving the affected joints. This is why people gain pain relief from physical therapy for arthritis.

    A professional physical therapist can guide you to working the stiffness out without further damage to your joints. The goal here is to get back to your old daily activities without difficulty; strengthening the muscles and improving the range of motion are the focus.

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    Arthritis: Types of Physical Therapy

    Comparing normal joint to joint with arthritis. Strengthening exercises increase muscle strength. Muscles support the joints, so with sturdier muscles, the patient will have a stable and strong joint. which makes moving easier and less painful. There are two kinds of strengthening exercise – isotonic and isometric. The former involves tightening the muscles through joint movement, and the latter entails strengthening the muscle devoid of joint movements (usually when patient have impaired joint motion).

    Aerobic or endurance workout brings up the patient’s heart rate to their target level for about 20-30 minutes. The target heart rate is different for each person; it is computed based on their age and condition. By elevating the heart rate to its optimum level, the body’s cardiovascular fitness improves. This type of workout should be performed three times a week or more to maximize its effectiveness. Aerobic workout improves physical strength, lessens arthritis symptoms, and provides a healthier mental attitude.

    Engineers work with physical therapists to ensure that each hydrotherapy bath is designed with the ultimate benefit in mind. 

    Water-based exercises or hydrotherapy may be recommended for a gentler aerobic workout. The water will support the weight of your body while still moving your joints to their optimum range of motion. Some also uses hydrotherapy as passive treatment – just relax in a whirlpool, and relieve pain while resting your muscles and conditioning your body with no strain on your tired joints.

    Range-of-motion movement is gentle and moderate stretching exercise, which aims to exercise each joint and move it to the greatest range of motion. This kind of exercise needs to be performed daily to prevent deformities and stiffness, and keep the joints fully mobile. This should not be substituted with normal daily activities, such as walking, housework, bathing, dressing, or cooking, which do not maximize a joint’s full range of movement.

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    Benefits of Physical Therapy for Arthritis Patients

    The proper physical therapy can reduce joint pain and stiffness by improving joint flexibility, muscle strength, endurance, coordination, and balance. An appropriate program plans for gradual improvement, and takes into consideration the patient’s physical limitations. The physical therapist should evaluate each patient individually, and coach them to perform strengthening exercises, aerobic or endurance workouts, hydrotherapies, and/or range-of-motion movements. Here are some of the benefits:

    • Strengthen your muscles to add support to your joints. Helps control weight
    • Improves sleeping pattern
    • Increases energy levels
    • Enhances bone and muscle strength
    • Keeps the heart healthy
    • Decreases fatigue and depression
    • Boosts self-confidence and self-esteem

    Physical exercise is essential to maintain a healthy joint. Movement and exercise helps mobility. Strengthen the muscles to help in supporting the joints. In addition, joint movement transfers nutrients to the cartilage, the matter that cushions and protects the bones.

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    Disclaimer

    The physical exercise recommended will depend on the age, type of arthritis, levels of inflammation, joints involved, stability and condition of joints, and other physical limitations. Always discuss your goals and physical therapy plans with your doctor or physical therapist before starting or ending a program or routine. Some exercises may be off-limits because of your condition, and could cause further joint damage and injury.

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    Image Credits

    • Wikimedia - http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/7e/Rheumatoid_arthritis_joint.gif
    • Wikimedia - http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/3/38/Jason_bath.jpg/800px-Jason_bath.jpg
    • rlonas - http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4121/4929283832_57fb11cd25_b.jpg
    • Jared Smith - http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4095/4928724057_27446d08f5.jpg
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    References

    • my.clevelandclinic.org
    • www.medicinenet.com