Physical Therapist Explains Arthritis & How to Treat It

Sep 9, 2021

Jordan Brocker

by Jordan Brocker
DPT | CSSS North Central Phoenix Location

Physical Therapy expert Jordan Brocker has an undergraduate degree in Biomedical Sciences and a Doctorate of Physical Therapy. He is here to explain different causes of arthritis and how physical therapy can help improve this condition.

What is Osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis is a normal bodily condition caused by wear and tear to the body, which leads to the deterioration of joint cartilage. This leaves bones unprotected, and eventually, the joint’s deterioration can become so extreme that it leaves bone to rub against bone. Joint fluid that helps lubricate the joint for a normal, smooth function is also deteriorated, leading to resisted motion and often-audible sounds when moving. Both of these factors play a role in the pain and limitation of the affected joints.

Unfortunately, there are no means for entirely reversing arthritis that has already developed. However, and more importantly, there is something you can do about it. Research and my personal experience have shown that physical therapy can have positive results in reducing the impairments and pain caused by osteoarthritis.

Osteoarthritis Factors That are Important to Address:

  • weakness and flexibility in muscles related to affected joints
  • stability of associated joints
  • specific joint motion and mobility
  • body mechanics that are influenced by different joints
  • balance and proprioception for lower extremity joints
  • muscle endurance

Physical therapy works to reduce the impairments caused by a person’s arthritis by addressing each of the above factors appropriately and uniquely for each individual. Everyone will have different causative factors that change how their arthritis is experienced and how it progresses. Your physical therapist must address these issues properly for you to receive the greatest benefit from treatment. Physical therapy will allow optimal function of the arthritic joint in order to prevent further deterioration and promote its current integrity.

For example, a very common arthritic joint is the knee. Often, degeneration in the lateral (outside) aspect of the knee can occur at a higher level than the medial (inside) of the joint, due to more force being applied to the outside of the knee during weight-bearing activities. The knee position that causes this is known as genu valum, and is seen when the knee is positioned toward the middle of the body, not the hip. The culprits responsible for this positioning are often weak hip and ankle muscles. Therefore, addressing the weaknesses in these muscle groups and applying it to activities (like walking or bending/squatting) could help reduce the abnormal forces on the knee, thus reducing irritation.

Exercise Programs to Improve Osteoarthritis

As physical therapists, we observe the local joint as well as the entire body to assess possible areas of impairment, and then improve the body mechanics of an individual. We create a program of specific exercises to best benefit each person’s needs, based on our evaluation process. We work towards creating independence with an exercise program for the patient that allows them to continue the exercises in their own homes, with a proper understanding of the concepts behind the exercises to continue rehabilitation.

There are many factors that may dictate the effectiveness of treating osteoarthritis, such as the severity of the issue, current or prior level of function, joint deformation, or other diseases that affect bones, joints, and bodily processes. If any of these factors are present, it does not mean that a person cannot do anything about their arthritis. However, it may affect the degree of improvement that can occur, as well as how long it takes to improve. Ultimately, doing something about osteoarthritis will be much more beneficial than staying idle and allowing the process to continue. By taking action, the degree of improvement you could achieve might change your life!

Foothills Sports Medicine Physical Therapy is dedicated to providing hands-on, individualized care to people of all ages with a myriad of afflictions. Our physical therapists are dedicated to your full recovery, schedule a free assessment with one of our highly trained staff, or contact one of our many valley-wide locations.

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