Patients suffering from arthritis complain of stiff joints. They normally avoid movements since it increases pain. But the pain and stiffness will only worsen if the arthritic joints are not moved. Physical therapy can help with the stiffness without adding damage to the joints.
The primary goal of a physical therapist is to help a patient with arthritis get back to doing daily normal activities pain free. Maintaining a good range of motion is important so the patient can still have the ability to do his or her daily activities. Building strength especially in the muscles around the affected joints is also important. Stronger muscles are needed to stabilize the weakened joint better.
Exercise programs can be designed specifically for arthritis patients to preserve and improve the strength and essentially the use of the affected joints. Range of motion exercises works to relieve stiffness, increase flexibility, improve and maintain movement of the joints.
Exercises for arthritis also include strengthening exercises which are great in preserving and increasing muscle strength. Isotonic exercises can strengthen muscles with the use of weights and isometric exercises can strengthen and tighten muscles without the need to move the affected joints.
Aquatic therapy is perfect for pain relief and in relaxing the muscles of a patient suffering from arthritis. As the water supports the body, stress to the affected joints is lessened. Swimming is a great aerobic activity as it can help with range of motion and muscle strength. Recreational exercises can also enhance the activities for the patient. Any exercise can be customized to fit the arthritis patient’s condition and limitations.
Patient education on how to manage pain and how to use assistive devices like walking aids can also be included.
Techniques that a physical therapist can teach an arthritis patient are:
- Bed rest can help in reducing both pain and joint inflammation. This is very useful if there are multiple joints affected and the patient is also complaining of fatigue.
- Application of hot and cold therapies is effective in reducing local pain. Heat can help with muscle spasm in the area of the inflamed joints caused by arthritis.
- Exercise needs to be done effectively on a daily basis. Constant and regular exercise help keep the joints moving.