The Arthritis Foundation states that arthritis affects over 50 million people. Nearly half of all adults over the age of 65 are diagnosed with some form of arthritis. This painful condition affects the joints, causing inflammation and pain along with problems with mobility. It is also the leading cause of disability across the nation. Due to its commonplace nature across America, it is important to understand the symptoms so you can better identify if you may have the condition.
Osteoarthritis is caused when the joints begin to wear down. This can develop as a result of old age or overuse of the joints. The “wear and tear” of osteoarthritis can cause severe pain in the joints, as the cartilage is no longer acting as a cushion and shock absorber. Without thick cartilage to act as a cushion, the bones begin to rub together. This can cause piercing pain, tightness, or soreness within the joints.
Rheumatoid arthritis, also known as “inflammatory arthritis,” has been known to cause painful swelling, bone erosion, and joint deformity. Its symptoms typically present themselves in the forms of stiffness, weakness, tenderness, or a “pins and needles” sensation. This condition is also typically more common in females than males.
Those suffering from any type of arthritis tend to have similar symptoms. A common report amongst arthritic patients is a feeling of stiffness within the joints as soon as they wake up, with the discomfort fading throughout the day. Arthritis can also limit your daily life, as pain may be experienced during exercise or work, fading once the activity is over. You may also notice “popping” or “clicking” sounds when moving your joints, and they may feel sensitive or painful to the touch. The most common joints affected by arthritis are the hips, knees, shoulders, ankles and wrists. Among these joints, the weight-bearing areas, such as the knees and ankles are the most affected due to wear and tear on the muscles, bones, tendons and joints.
Physical therapy combines passive and active treatments to reduce pain and improve function. Passive forms of therapy include TENS unit, ultrasound, massage, heat and ice application, while active forms include patient participation in stretching and exercising. Exercise has been shown to greatly improve mobility and reduce pain in patients with arthritis
Your physical therapist will conduct a physical evaluation to analyze your joint movement, muscle strength, and overall function, in order to pinpoint the exact areas that are causing you pain. You will then be prescribed a personalized treatment plan, focused around your specific needs. Treatment plans will include targeted stretches and exercises aimed at relieving your pain and improving your function, in addition to any specialized methods your physical therapist deems fit. This may include manual therapy, ice and heat therapies, electrical stimulation, or ultrasound. Your physical therapist may also include additional services as needed, such as weight management techniques to help ease some stress on your joints, and/or posture improvement to relieve stiffness and prevent injury.