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Physical Therapist Explains Arthritis & How to Treat It

Oct 19, 2022

by Jordan Brocker DPT | CSSS

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. The joint fluid that helps lubricate the joint for a normal, smooth function also deteriorates, leading to resisted motion and often-audible sounds when moving. Both 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 help to alleviate pain and discomfort caused by osteoarthritis, so your recovery is more than just good enough, and you can continue performing the activities you enjoy.

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

PT, helping client bend knee.

Physical therapy reduces 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 to prevent further deterioration and promote its current integrity.

For example, a very common arthritic joint is the knee. Often, degeneration in the knee’s lateral (outside) aspect 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 them 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 and the entire body to assess possible areas of impairment and then improve the body mechanics of an individual. Based on our evaluation process, we create a program of specific exercises to best benefit each person’s needs. 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.

Many factors 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 these factors are present, it does not mean 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. The degree of improvement you could achieve might change your life by taking action!

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.

Jordan Brocker

by Jordan Brocker
DPT | CSSS Queen Creek Location

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