If My Arthritis is Not Reversible, Why Should I See a Physical Therapist?13 Comments
As a physical therapist I often hear people make the statement “My knee hurts today, but it always does; I have arthritis” or “Physical therapy can’t help me because my pain is from arthritis.” Once a joint is showing arthritic changes or degeneration, it’s true that degeneration will not reverse. However, research is showing more and more how physical therapy can often make changes in the pain you experience from a joint that is diagnosed with arthritis. Isn’t that great news?!
- One study1 compared patients with knee osteoarthritis who were treated in therapy with both manual techniques (stretching and knee mobilizations) and with exercises versus people who just did exercises at home. The patients who went to therapy had twice the pain relief and improvement of function compared to the people who did exercises on their own. This relief lasted when they were rechecked a year later!
- Another study2 compared patients with hip osteoarthritis who were all treated by physical therapists. Half of the patients received manual therapy (stretching and mobilizations techniques to the hip) and half did exercises for the hip only. The patients who had their therapists performing manual therapy on them showed better improvements with pain, stiffness, motion, and function compared to those with exercises only. The improvements with the manual therapy group were still better 29 weeks later when rechecked!
The research discussed above showed that a physical therapist performing manual techniques was extremely beneficial for the patients when it came to pain reduction and ability to perform daily tasks. The manual techniques involve the therapist using their own hands to help stretch the patient and move the joints in a way that assists in creating more motion and function at the joint. Therefore, it is important to have these manual techniques performed, if deemed appropriate by your therapist, to obtain the highest level of pain relief and function.
Who Can Benefit
Another study3 discovered that it didn’t matter what level or severity of hip function, pain, or amount of motion a patient with arthritis in the hip had. The patients who had manual therapy performed by the physical therapist still did better than those who performed exercises only.
Take Home Message
Although people at times will have arthritis to the point that they need a hip replacement or a knee replacement, physical therapy is definitely worth a try first! Physical therapy is shown in research to improve hip and knee pain when diagnosed with osteoarthritis and improve overall function. In addition, improvements can last quite some time!
Remember: “You don’t stop moving because you get old. You get old because you stop moving!” (Variation of George Bernard Shaw quote)
Athletico is a proud partner of the Arthritis Foundation. For more arthritis tips, including prevention and management, visit www.arthritis.org.
Learn more about how physical therapy can help with arthritis by scheduling an appointment at an Athletico Physical Therapy clinic near you.
The Athletico blog is an educational resource written by Athletico employees. Athletico bloggers are licensed professionals who abide by the code of ethics outlined by their respective professional associations. The content published in blog posts represents the opinion of the individual author based on their expertise and experience. The content provided in this blog is for informational purposes only, does not constitute medical advice and should not be relied on for making personal health decisions.1. Deyle GD, Allison SC, Matekel RL, et al. Physical therapy treatment effectiveness for osteoarthritis of the knee: a randomized comparison of supervised clinical exercise and manual therapy procedures versus a home exercise program. Phys Ther. 2005 Dec;85(12):1301-17. 2. Hoeksma HL, Dekker J, Ronday HK, et al. Comparison of Manual Therapy and Exercise Therapy in Osteoarthritis of the Hip: A Randomized Clinical Trial. Arthritis & Rheumatism 2004:51: 722-729. 3. Hoeksma HL, Dekker J, Ronday HK, et al. Manual therapy in osteoarthritis of the hip: outcome in subgroups of patients. Rheumatology 2005.