Regardless of the type of arthritis you have, physical therapy is an invaluable tool for management. There are several tools physical therapists use to help people reduce the pain and limitations associated with arthritis.
Many physical therapy centers have swimming pools or may recommend you find a pool for use in your physical therapy. Aquatics can be instrumental in weight control for people with arthritis because it allows you to be more physically active with less impact on your joints. If you are mostly immobile, this may be the recommended way to start some physical therapy activities. Additionally, the water helps with range of motion since you are almost weightless in water. While in the water, it may be easier to perform certain exercises or range-of-motion activities due to decreased pain. If you have access to heated water, this may be more comfortable if your joints frequently ache.
When you have arthritis that affects your lower body, specific activities to change your gait can place less stress on your weight-bearing joints. Some changes your physical therapist may want to target are postural issues or pelvic tilt. These problems may not be immediately obvious until your therapist watches you walk. Once they identify gait abnormalities, they can give you cues to work on during your gait. For example, engaging your glutes or abdominal muscles as you walk might be useful in correcting your posture. Sometimes people may walk with their feet pointed outward or inward, which adds uneven stress on the knees. Changing your gait will not happen overnight, but remembering the cues taught by your physical therapist can help you slowly adopt a gait that reduces unnecessary stress on arthritic joints.
Stretching And Strengthening
Stretching and strengthening different muscle groups goes hand-in-hand when trying to improve arthritis. For example, if you have knee arthritis that is mainly affecting the inner knee, it does not make sense to purely work on strengthening your legs. People who tend to have arthritis affecting the medial aspect of their knee often have knee valgus. To correct the valgus, you will need to strengthen your hip flexors and glutes. Additionally, people with knee valgus may also have tightness in the front of their hips, so stretching these areas will be necessary. Generally, a combination of strengthening specific muscle groups while simultaneously stretching tight muscles can help correct imbalances that exacerbate arthritis.
Physical therapists use a combination of tools to increase your mobility with arthritis and to help you work on imbalances that make the problem worse. Over time, you may find you have less pain or may slow the progression of arthritis. For more information, contact local professionals like those found at Hands-On Physical Therapy.