Updated: Nov 13
Arthritis is such an ugly word, it’s even ugly to spell! Given this diagnosis can make you feel like you’ll never be able to do anything you enjoy ever again. But, although arthritis can be limiting, it doesn’t have to be especially if you catch it early and/or quickly begin to provide support for your joints and prevent further degeneration.
Arthritis, to an extent, is very normal as we age. Part of the aging process is a decrease in the lubricating fluids in our joints and thinning of the cartilage between our joints. Some things that we do can increase this process or cause it to begin earlier in life when we put our joints through strain without protecting them with muscle strengthening and stability.
There are several techniques that physical therapists use to assist you in the treatment and care of your arthritis diagnosis. The focus of treatment would include learning joint protection strategies, strengthening the muscles surrounding the joints, and understanding how to use these muscles when completing activity.
Treatment is a Team Effort
Although there are manual techniques that the physical therapist can use to increase joint mobility and lubricate the joints, the more important part of your rehab is on you! Click here for the best tips to staying compliant with your exercises at home.
Strengthening the muscles that support your joints is very important, but until you understand how to use these muscles they are only so helpful. Learning how to contract your muscles at the right times will help to protect the joint and decrease the strain that causes inflammation. For example:
Going up and down stairs is painful for your knees so you tend to do one step at a time. Learning how to use your glutes and make sure your knee is tracking over your foot and in line with your hip will decrease the strain on your knee.
Throwing a ball is painful to your shoulder and you’ve lost velocity over the years. Understand how to contract and use your shoulder muscles.
The best way to see progress and allow your joints to heal is to do your part and make sure to complete your home exercises frequently and incorporate the muscles you are strengthening into your daily activities.
To learn more about the purpose of a home exercise program, click here.
Alternative Treatment Options
There are, of course, other conservative treatment options such as injections to improve cartilage between the joints, cortisone injections to decrease inflammation, arthroscopic surgery to clean up the joint, and total joint replacement.
In my experience, injections can be helpful to get you ahead of your pain when you get them in conjunction with your physical therapy. That way you can tolerate the treatment sessions and work on strengthening and learning how to stay ahead of your pain. On their own, they are successful ~50% of the time and seem to be something you need to repeat over and over because they aren’t solving the problem as to why you have the pain, but simply decreasing it for a period of time.
Arthroscopic surgery seems to be a simpler surgery than a replacement to buy you some time before you want a replacement. Again, it seems they are more successful when PT is provided following the surgery to help you learn to protect the joint and strengthen around it.
Total joint replacements should be a last resort. When you have lost the ability to walk, for example, and nothing else conservative has worked along with you doing your part to strengthen and use the new muscles. Joint replacements are painful and require a long rehab to gain back your mobility and function.
So What Should you do After your OA Diagnosis?
Reach out to your favorite physical therapist…ME! We can work together to get you where you want to be with strengthening and stabilizing your joints to prevent flare ups and further damage to allow you to function without pain and at the level you wish to reach. Find out what to expect as a new client and then use this quick link to my website so you can schedule a Free phone consultation.