Most people experience some type of arthritis though out their lifetime. As it is diagnosed by your doctor, they will more than likely give you a prescription for anti-inflammatory or pain medicine to treat the symptoms of arthritis. It seems like doctors give you medicine for everything, then send you out the door without discussing other options. That is why many Americans take hand fulls of pills every day.
If you have arthritis, you usually have pain and stiffness in the joints. This is often because they avoid movements that can increase the pain. By immobilizing arthritic joints, the stiffness and pain can worsen. Physical Therapy (PT) and Occupational Therapy (OT) are safe and beneficial alternatives to medicine, or they can work together with the medicines the doctor prescribes to make you more functional. A physical therapist will work more with the pain management and exercise, while an occupational therapist teaches you how to modify your daily activities at home or on the job. In therapy, heat can be placed on the arthritic joints to decrease pain, loosen up the joint, and make it easier to move. Gentle stretching can be good for the joint, especially after the heat is applied. Preserving good range of motion can be key to maintaining the ability to perform daily tasks. Exercise increases the muscles, which make you more functional. Building strength in the involved muscles surrounding the joint also is extremely important, since stronger muscles can better stabilize a weakened joint and prevent further injuries.
Modalities such as ultrasound, electrical stimulation, diathermy, and paraffin wax can be used. The ultrasound, diathermy, and paraffin wax are forms of deep heat, meaning they will provide heat deeper and more efficient than heating pads will. Deep heat goes all the way down to reach and heats the sore muscles and joints. Electrical stimulation gives a relaxing massaging sensation to provide pain control to the joints. The therapist can teach you how to work out the pain and soreness at home, exercises to perform at home, and what activities to avoid. Splints or braces may be applied, especially to the hand or wrist to reduce motions that may cause increased aggravation or to give you extra support. Therapists can also show you how to safely use walking aids, such as a walker or cane, if necessary.
They can teach you how to make transitional movements, such as going from standing to sitting or going up and down stairs or curbs. Aquatic therapy (exercise in a warm therapeutic pool) is often used, since it takes the stress off of the joints and provides heat. It is much easier and sometimes more beneficial to exercise in a pool than on land, especially with sore knees or back.
There are many benefits to therapy if you have arthritis. Be sure to talk to your doctor and see if therapy is right for you.