May is National Arthritis Month; a time to raise awareness and support for the millions of Americans living with arthritis. Arthritis is a common condition that causes pain, stiffness, and swelling in the joints. According to the CDC, arthritis affects more than 54 million adults in the United States. That makes it one of the leading causes of disability.
But there is hope for people with arthritis. Physical therapy is a proven and effective treatment to manage symptoms, improve function, and enhance quality of life. Physical therapists are licensed professionals who evaluate and treat conditions that limit the body's ability to move and perform daily activities. They can also teach you how to prevent or reduce the impact of arthritis on your health and well-being.
Physical therapy for arthritis can help you:
Ease pain. Physical therapists can use things like massage, joint mobilizations, exercise, braces or splints, to relieve pain and inflammation in the affected joints.
- Increase range of motion. Physical therapists can design a personalized exercise program that includes stretching, strengthening, coordination, and balance exercises to improve your flexibility and mobility.
- Improve movement patterns. Physical therapists can teach you proper posture and body mechanics for common activities, such as getting in and out of chairs, climbing stairs, walking, or working. This can help protect your joints to slow down or prevent progression of your symptoms.
- Enhance your fitness level. Physical therapists can help you create a home workout routine that matches your goals and abilities. They can also show you how to exercise safely and effectively without aggravating your arthritis symptoms.
- Maintain function. Physical therapy can help you maintain or restore your ability to perform everyday tasks like cooking, gardening, shopping, or playing with your grandchildren.
Physical therapy treatment for arthritis is based on scientific evidence and tailored to your individual needs. It can also complement other treatments for arthritis, such as medications, bracing, or topical products. Research has shown that physical therapy can be more effective than steroid injections at reducing pain and disability in people with knee osteoarthritis. It can also have positive effects on fatigue, cardio fitness, cognition, and body composition in people with rheumatoid arthritis.
If you have arthritis or know someone who does, don't let this month pass by without taking action. Contact your physical therapist for an appointment.