Foothills Sports Medicine Physical Therapy is a group of locally-owned Phoenix physical therapy clinics that provides services to patients all over the Valley. We believe individualized, hands-on physical therapy techniques are the best way to help our patients overcome injury and return to pain-free, active lifestyles. You can schedule a free assessment with one of our PTs online here, or you can visit our blog for more information.
Kaitlin Adams received her Doctorate of Physical Therapy from Temple University. She became interested in physical therapy after undergoing surgery herself, and she is passionate about helping her patients recover fully and quickly from any injury they may have. In this post, she discusses knee arthritis, and how physical therapy can help patients overcome it.
Many people will develop arthritis as they age. The most common form of arthritis is called osteoarthritis (OA), a degenerative joint disease caused by wear and tear in the body that can lead to chronic pain. In 2005, the CDC reported that OA affects approximately 33.6% of people aged 65+. OA can affect any joint in the body, but it is very common in the knee.
Some symptoms of knee osteoarthritis include a popping, cracking, or grinding sensation in the knee (with or without pain), as well as swelling, tenderness, and stiffness. People often experience pain that is worse in the morning, but improves with light activity throughout the day. OA’s severity can be influenced by age, genetics, BMI, bone structure, activity level, and strength. There is no cure for the condition, but different treatment options help manage pain and keep you active. Physical therapy has been shown to be successful in managing OA and helping to alleviate pain.
What Can Physical Therapy Help Address?
Range of Motion/Flexibility: People with arthritis often keep their knees slightly bent because it is a more comfortable position for them. However, over time this can lead to loss of range of motion (a measure of movement around a joint). This can cause more permanent mobility issues and prevent performance of daily activities, so it is important to preserve and improve ROM. A physical therapist will measure range of motion and prescribe specific exercises to address their patients’ problems and improve flexibility.
Strength: It is important to strengthen the muscles around the knee to improve stability and decrease the stress on the knee joint. A physical therapist will perform strength testing to determine which muscles are weak, and they will provide exercises that strengthen these muscles and avoid making the condition or pain worse. Many people find water therapy beneficial, as the buoyancy of the water decreases the stress on the joint but still allows strengthening of the legs.
Activity Modification: Depending on the severity of OA, repetitive and high impact movements can increase knee pain. It is important to modify activity and movements to prevent worsening of symptoms. Walking with a limp can put increased strain on the body, and using an assistive device such as a cane may help to normalize your walking pattern and decrease knee pain. Even improper footwear can contribute to increased knee pain. Your physical therapist can help you figure out which movements or activities are harming your knees, and can help you find modifications that are appropriate for your individual needs.
Talk to your physician or physical therapist if you believe you have arthritis to determine if physical therapy is appropriate for you! Feel free to contact your local Foothills Sports Medicine Phoenix physical therapy clinic with any questions or concerns you may have.