How Physical Therapy Can Help Arthritis Pain

It should come as no surprise that arthritis is one of the leading causes of pain in older adults. What may surprise you is that physical therapy can significantly help with arthritis pain management.

According to Elizabeth Weihert, physical therapist at Stoughton Health, physical therapy has shown to be effective in treating arthritis, and may help to avoid surgery as well as reduce or eliminate the use of prescription pain medications. Physical therapy is cost effective and is usually covered by insurance.

Activities and techniques utilized in physical therapy can help improve and restore mobility of a joint, increase muscle strength to support the surrounding joints, improve overall fitness to increase tolerance to activities, reduce pain and swelling, improve balance and stability, and improve function of daily activities in patients dealing with arthritis. Physical therapists can provide education on joint protection and body mechanics, which can help slow the arthritic progression and preserve the ability to perform daily activities.

A physical therapist will begin with a thorough evaluation and assessment of a patient to determine what areas of attention the joint might need in order to improve. Then they will determine a specific plan of care to help reach the patient’s goals.

As Weihert explains, one area a physical therapist might focus on is teaching exercises to address a patient’s specific area of arthritis. For example, physical therapy can help to teach proper posture and body mechanics used during daily activities, which can help protect the patient’s arthritic joints.

“A physical therapist may also instruct patients in the proper use of an assistive device, such as a walker or cane, which can reduce stress and provide support to the joints,” Weihert says. “They can recommend different home treatment options to help a patient, such as the use of splints/braces to support and protect joints, use of hot and cold therapies to reduce overall joint pain and stiffness, and use of shoe inserts to reduce stress on joints in the lower body.”

Warm water exercise is also ideal for the treatment of arthritis. The buoyancy of the water can reduce impact on the joints, allowing the patient to move more freely and easily in the water.

It can be helpful to have a patient start a conversation with their medical team to determine if physical therapy might be a helpful avenue of treatment for their specific situation.

“In most cases though, a physician’s referral for physical therapy is not needed, unless a patient has Medicare or Medicaid. They can call Stoughton Health Rehabilitation and Sports Medicine directly and we will help them determine insurance coverage and if a referral is necessary,” says Weihert.

To schedule an appointment, please call one of the Stoughton Health clinics:
Stoughton: 608-873-2392  |  Oregon: 608-835-5373

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