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Managing Osteoarthritis with Physical Therapy

Arthritis affects millions of people in the US, and the chronic pain it causes can be debilitating. According to the CDC, arthritis is the leading cause of workplace disability and in general, ongoing pain associated with the disease can cause a range of issues including sleep disturbances, social isolation, and depression. May is Arthritis Awareness Month, and it’s a great time to learn about managing osteoarthritis.

Osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis, occurs when cartilage wears away, removing the cushion within the joints and causing bones to rub against one another. The disorder most often affects joints in the hands, lower back, neck, knees, hips, and feet. Unlike rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis affects only joints, not internal organs.

Symptoms include:

  • Pain in the joints during or after movement
  • Stiffness, particularly when waking in the morning or after being inactive
  • Joint tenderness
  • Loss of flexibility
  • A grating, popping, or cracking sensation
  • Swelling
  • Bone spurs

Osteoarthritis Causes and Risk Factors

Experts believe that osteoarthritis is caused by a combination of several factors, including:

  • Advanced age. The risk for developing osteoarthritis increases as a person ages.
  • Gender. It isn’t clear why, but osteoarthritis affects women more often than men.
  • Being overweight. Excess weight adds stress on weight-bearing joints like the hips and knees and can lead to damage over time.
  • Injury to and overuse of the joints. Injury to or excessive stress on joints is often seen in athletes, and it increases a person’s risk for osteoarthritis.
  • Metabolic diseases. Certain diseases such as diabetes and hemochromatosis, a condition in which the body has too much iron, increase the risk for developing osteoarthritis.

Tips for Managing Arthritis Pain with Physical Therapy

A diagnosis of osteoarthritis does not have to mean a decline in activity or quality of life. Physical therapy can offer pain management strategies that allow seniors to continue to live life to the fullest and stave off disability.

Exercise. When you’re in pain, it can seem counterproductive to move your body more than necessary. However, exercise is a crucial part of pain management for osteoarthritis. It helps increase flexibility and control weight to prevent added joint stress. A physical therapist can demonstrate gentle exercises that can help increase range of motion while protecting the tissue around the joint.

Help with assistive devices. Assistive devices such as canes and walkers can help those with chronic pain get around more easily. A physical therapist can demonstrate proper use of these devices for enhanced safety.

Modify your environment. A physical therapist can suggest simple in-home modifications that can make life at home more comfortable, such as ergonomic chairs, cushioned floor mats, mattresses, and more.

Rest. While staying active and keeping up with PT exercises are important for those with osteoarthritis, it is also important not to over-stress your joints. Rest when you need to, elevating affected joints as needed to reduce swelling.

Consider surgery. If other treatment options have not been successful, it may be time to consider surgery to help repair or replace a damaged joint. Physical therapy following surgery can help restore function, build muscle, and speed recover time.

Home Care and Physical Therapy Help

If you or a loved one is living with osteoarthritis, Jewish Family Home Care’s Sunrise home care experts can help! Our in-home care services are designed to help seniors live life to the fullest at home, and can include:

Additionally, Nursing Plus of Broward, a wholly owned subsidiary of Jewish Family Home Care, offers in-home physical therapy that can be combined with home care services from Jewish Family Home Care to aid in managing arthritis pain. Our physical therapists can work in conjunction with your doctor to develop a treatment plan uses the latest in teaching, exercise, massage, and other therapeutic treatments to relieve pain, restore function, and obtain/maintain maximum performance.

Contact our Sunrise home care team today to learn more about our services and how we can help you manage osteoarthritis pain and live life on your terms. For a full list of the areas where we provide care, please visit our Areas We Serve page.