Osteoarthritis and Physical Therapy

Osteoarthritis (OA) is a common arthritic condition that can affect any joint in our skeletal system.   It is the type of arthritis we think of when we talk about "wear and tear" on our joints and is perhaps most commonly found in the knees and hips.  Risk factors associated with OA include age, obesity, history of injury (including surgery), and genetics. Once present, OA is not something that can be cured, but can be managed.  The CDC recommends that treatment of OA involve:

  • Increasing physical activity.

  • Physical Therapy with muscle strengthening exercises.

  • Weight loss.

  • Medications, including over-the-counter pain relievers and prescription drugs.

  • Supportive devices such as crutches or canes.

  • Surgery (if other treatment options have not been effective).

Maintaining an active lifestyle is essential in managing OA.  The right amount of physical activity helps maintain joint nutrition and ease symptoms of joint stiffness and pain that are characteristic of OA.  For those with mild to moderate OA, regular exercise can reduce or prevent the need for oral medications. Exercise also helps one maintain a healthy weight and provides other benefits outside of bone & joint health such as improving cardiovascular health, stabilizing blood sugars, and managing stress.  Regular exercise may also delay the need for joint replacement surgery.

For some suffering from OA, maintaining or attempting to transition to an active lifestyle is difficult.  Physical therapy (PT) can help. Physical therapists are specially trained to evaluate and treat musculoskeletal disorders.  They perform an evaluation to determine what type and amount of exercise would be most beneficial and if manual therapy would help improve joint mobility.  Exercise prescribed through PT is highly individualized to target specific areas of weakness or inflexibility and to optimize joint health in an appropriate manner.  Pool PT is also an option and often a well tolerated way to get physical movement. Warm water provides pain relief while unloading stiff, sore joints. Plus, pool PT allows an easy transition to community based water aerobics style classes upon discharge from care.

For those with more advanced OA that are facing imminent surgery, consulting a physical therapist can be beneficial to optimize joint range and strength prior to surgery.   Post-operatively, PT is an essential component of recovery to optimize long term joint function. PT for these individuals may also include water based exercise (once the incision has healed) along with a land based, individualized exercise program and hands on treatment to maximize range of motion.

If you are experiencing pain or limitation relating to OA, consider Physical Therapy as your first intervention.  Here at Jade, we offer land and pool based Physical Therapy and free 30 minute consults to help answer any questions you have before committing to PT.  

We look forward to working with you!