can physical therapy help arthritis?

Coping with symptoms of arthritis can be difficult, especially when they prevent a person from participating fully in life. Treatments like physical therapy can help relieve pain and discomfort and increase mobility and physical function. Aside from managing symptoms, physical therapists can educate patients on specific exercises and techniques that enable them to move more freely with less pain.

Arthritis reduces a person’s typical range of motion, which can often lead to excruciating pain while walking, running or exercising. Licensed physical therapists are trained healthcare professionals that examine, diagnose, treat or help reduce the severity or progression of medical conditions, including arthritis, that limit a person’s full range of motion.

Physical therapist assistant students at St. Louis College of Health Career gain valuable experience in helping people cope with all types of mobility limiting conditions and recover from injuries. Earning a PTA Associate of Applied Science can also be a great way to get your foot in the door and earn valuable experience if you desire to move into more focused roles or pursue additional education.

What Is Arthritis and What Are Its Symptoms?

Arthritis occurs when one or more joints become tender or swollen, leading to joint pain and stiffness. The most common types of arthritis are osteoarthritis (the wearing and breaking down of joint cartilage) and rheumatoid arthritis (an immune system disease that attacks the joints).

Arthritis typically occurs in older adults and symptoms tend to worsen with age. Common symptoms of arthritis include pain, swelling, redness, stiffness and loss of range of motion.

What Are the Primary Goals of Physical Therapy?

Physical therapy is recommended for patients with arthritis because it can:

  • Strengthen overall joint health
  • Relieve pain and discomfort
  • Increase mobility and function of the affected joints
  • Enable patients to complete daily activities more easily
  • Alleviate stiffness and fatigue
  • Improve balance, coordination and stability
  • Enhance health and fitness levels

What Does a Typical Physical Therapy Treatment Plan Look Like for Someone with Arthritis?

Physical therapists that treat arthritis create individualized treatment plans for their patients in order to increase their mobility, strength, balance and coordination.

A licensed physical therapist will:

  • Educate their patients on body mechanics and proper posture.
  • Ask questions about the patient’s daily environment and suggest modifications (i.e., ergonomic chairs or cushioned mats in the kitchen or bathroom) that may help relieve arthritis symptoms.
  • Demonstrate how to use assistive devices properly (i.e., canes, walkers, wheelchairs, etc.) to prevent pain or stiffness caused by misuse.
  • Recommend additional treatment options that are designed to provide better joint support (i.e., hot and cold therapy, braces and splints, shoe inserts, etc.).
  • Prescribe medications, supplements or topical ointments and creams to reduce swelling and manage pain.

How Frequently Should Someone with Arthritis See a Physical Therapist?

The goal of physical therapy is to introduce methods and techniques that are intended to improve a person’s range of motion and reduce pain or stiffness caused by conditions such as arthritis.

Physical therapy generally isn’t like chiropractic adjustments or massage therapy where a patient or customer may see their care provider periodically even if they don’t have a specific ailment, chronic pain condition or acute injury. A physical therapist’s goals vary from patient to patient but may include getting the patient to a point where they’re able to perform various stretches or mobility and strength enhancing exercises without the physical therapist present.

The frequency of appointments will often be at the discretion of the physical therapist based on the severity of the patient’s condition and their ability to perform the exercises on their own. Most patients with arthritis will see their physical therapist periodically for follow-ups or to make updates to their treatment plan.

It’s not always necessary to schedule a physical therapy appointment every week. The goal is to learn the exercises from a physical therapist and practice them at home. The more a patient with arthritis performs their recommended exercises correctly, the stronger their joints will become and the more they will see their symptoms improve.

Explore Physical Therapist Assistant (PTA) Programs at St. Louis College of Health Careers (SLCHC)

If you have an interest in working in the healthcare industry and you are passionate about helping others, you may want to consider a career in physical therapy. Completing the PTA program at St. Louis College of Health Careers can equip students with the knowledge they need to apply and sit for the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy (FSBPT) exam. Passing the exam makes students eligible for licensure as a physical therapist assistant.

Our PTA graduates learn the various responsibilities required to assist at a physical therapy practice including:

  • How to use physical modalities and adaptive equipment
  • Manage data and keep up-to-date records of patient progress
  • Document patient reports and note their response to treatment
  • How to articulate therapeutic techniques to patients and their families

Submit your application online to join our PTA program or learn more about our various associate and bachelor’s degrees by calling SLCHC at 866-529-2070.

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