How can physical therapy help alleviate osteoarthritis pain?

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Osteoarthritis Symptoms

Arthritis has been identified as the most common cause of disability in the United States. Osteoarthritis of the knee affects one third of the population from 63 to 94 years old, limiting their ability to comfortably walk, stand, climb the stairs and even rise from a chair.The most common treatments include physical therapy and exercise programs, joint replacement surgeries and cortisone injections. Some of the common medicines used in treatment, like NSAIDS (Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs), which help ease joint pain can also lead to further complications like gastric problems and an increased risk for hospitalization.Osteoarthritis patients often suffer from a stiffness of joints, reduced movement, swelling and a grinding sensation in the affected area. However, restricting joint movement worsens the pain and stiffness. All these symptoms are also conducive to other psychological factors like depression and a distorted self-image since a reduced range of motion corresponds to a declining quality of life.


How does physical therapy work?

A trained physical therapist can suggest you a program specific to your condition and help ease out stiffness without causing further joint damage. Physical therapy can also yield good results after an injury, like an accident, and in a post-surgery scenario.Physical therapy helps by focussing on restoring a good range of motion and building strength in the adjoining muscles, which in turn helps distribute pressure and stabilizes the weak joints. Physical therapists further provide patients with exercises that help maintain joint usage and strength. They also ensure that you use required tools like a walker, cane, etc. if necessary and help improve the posture and movement positions.


“A combination of manual physical therapy and supervised exercise yields functional benefits for patients with osteoarthritis of the knee and may delay or prevent the need for surgical intervention.”


In addition, occupational therapy helps relieve joint stress for all your daily activities. A qualified occupational therapist can recommend the necessary modifications to your work and home environment so that you can prevent excessively strenuous motions that exacerbate osteoarthritis symptoms and pain. They can also provide required precautionary measures, assistive tools and splints, for instance, which aid in restoring function in your routine tasks like bathing, housekeeping, driving and work related actions.

Summarizing the techniques and their benefits.There is a vast range of techniques deployed to help restore an active lifestyle for osteoarthritis patients and they vary from case to case. The purpose, however, remains the same in allowing patients to live their life to the fullest and enjoy a dynamic lifestyle with their friends and family. Proper rest remains among the commonalities as it can help reduce fatigue, pain and joint inflammation. Bed rest is mostly recommended if osteoarthritis is affecting multiple joints while individual joint rest is prescribed when only one or few joints are affected. Assistive aids particular to the ailment also help provide rest and support to the affected joint(s), for example soft collars, custom splints and walking aids can be used if required. Heating pads and ice packs help relieve pain locally and the use of ultrasound deep heat aids in reducing muscle spasms. Heating methods also allow for relaxation that is required for exercise. Daily exercise according to a prescribed program, with adjustments as the patient requirements change, is deemed an essential component of rehabilitation and physical therapy programs.​