How Does Physical Therapy Help Arthritis Patients?

Orthopaedic & Spine Center
Physical Therapist in Newport News

Tom Toothaker, DPT

Given that approximately 60 million people in the United States are affected by a form of arthritis, it is no wonder that these people will be looking for relief from the pain and stiffness arthritis causes in joints.  In more advanced cases, arthritis causes disability and can keep people from leading full and productive lives.  As a Physical Therapist, I see these patients every day and it is my job to help them be able to move better with their arthritis.

We take our body’s ability to move well and without pain for granted.  But when we can’t get out of a chair, put on our clothes, climb stairs, pick up a bag of groceries or get in and out of a car, we tend to take notice rather quickly.  My goals as a PT are to help you do all of these activities safely, while increasing your strength and helping you to use your affected joints to do what you want to do.

When you come in for an evaluation with me, I am going to talk to you about what you can and can’t do and what you want to do.  We are going to set goals together and I will develop a treatment plan just for you and your lifestyle.  Yes, I will put you on a regimen of exercise that will help you move better and with a greater range of motion, but I will also help you in other ways.

  • If your arthritis could be helped by orthotics, which include shoe inserts, braces, splints or assistive devices, I will recommend those for you and help you understand how to use them safely, when necessary.
  • We will work on improving your posture to help get your body aligned. We will also talk about body mechanics, which will help you do your activities in a way to minimize pain and risk of injury.
  • I will treat you with hot or cold packs, manual tissue manipulation, ultrasound, dry needling or a laser to increase circulation, reduce inflammation and loosen tense or tight muscles.
  • We will also talk about your home and where you work and how those places can be modified to help you move better with less pain. Maybe a stand-up desk would help your posture while at your computer, or an ergonomic back rest would support your lower back while sitting.  If you are on your feet a lot at home or at work, maybe a cushioned mat would help support you.
  • You many need to lose a few pounds or quit smoking. There are multiple studies that indicate being overweight or smoking increases pain in people who have arthritis.  Making a few changes to your diet, eating more nutritious foods and kicking the habit could go a long way to helping you feel better.

While I will do everything I can to help you feel better, much of the responsibility falls on you to continue doing your exercises at home, consistently.  Many folks will do their exercises for a few weeks and then stop as soon as they feel better.  Next thing you know, the pain and dysfunction returns and they are always surprised when this happens.  Because Arthritis is a chronic condition, you can only manage it. The only way it is resolved is with a joint replacement.  You have to be diligent with your exercises and stretching so that you don’t lose your progress over time.

Working together with your Physical Therapist can greatly reduce the disability you have living with Arthritis.  Call us for an appointment.  The skilled and caring Physical Therapists at OSC can help you live well and move better, even with Arthritis.