October 12 is World Arthritis Day, a day that is dedicated to raising awareness about the disease that affects more than 200 million people worldwide. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, almost half of the world’s population will experience issues of osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, or juvenile arthritis by the age of 85.
Arthritis is a condition that many people have heard of and may conceptualize as being quite common, particularly among older populations. However, many people familiar with the condition are not aware of its intensity, of the discomfort associated with the experience, or the lifestyle consequences that typically occur as a result of struggling with the illness.
The primary symptoms of arthritis are a combination of pain and stiffness in the joints, which often is accompanied by a combination of redness and swelling. This usually results in a greatly decreased range of motion, and may make something as simple as walking difficult to do without support.
There is a collection of reasons an individual may develop arthritis, some of which are preventable, others not so much. The two greatest risk factors for developing arthritis is having a family history of arthritis and old age. Other primary risk factors include obesity, being female, and history of previous joint injuries.
HOW PT CAN HELP
Physical therapy is generally incorporated as a core aspect of the treatment for arthritis. Avoiding movement of the joints increases the level of stiffness, thereby making it more difficult to move comfortably. Physical therapy focuses on encouraging movement in physically appropriate ways so to support healing and to prevent discomfort.
At PT Solutions, we treat patients with arthritic complaints and symptoms with a combination of manual therapy for soft tissue and joint mobilization followed by strengthening and conditioning of the lower extremities.
In a recent study, it was reported that a combination of manual therapy and strengthening can help decrease pain and delay or prevent surgery. Researchers found that, compared to a placebo, patients who received physical therapy increased the distance they were able to walk in six minutes. They also reported less pain and stiffness in those patients receiving therapy. After one year, only 5% of those who received treatment required knee surgery, compared to 20% of those in the placebo group. The treatment in this study consisted of mobilization of the knee, hip and spine, followed by strengthening and stabilization exercises in surrounding musculature.
Whatever the arthritic diagnosis, physical therapists continue to have the following goals for patients: to reduce pain; restore mobility, strength, and function; and prevent unnecessary disability.