Arthritis—a condition marked by the inflammation of joints, which progressively hampers movement and mobility, is on steady rise in the population. If experts are to be believed, our daily activities, from our choice of foods to how much we exercise, play a key role in triggering inflammation in the body.

Conventional medicine relies on pain-relieving drugs to treat arthritis. However, while alleviating the symptoms does form an integral part of the treatment plan, it often overlooks another aspect—loss in mobility amongst arthritis patients.

People suffering from arthritis are commonly seen to avoid any kind of physical activity—even walking or moving about—due to their stiff joints. While the stuffy and rigid joints are a perk of the condition itself, what many patients fail to realize is that their inactivity only makes this worse.

Inactivity, in general, is associated with poor quality of life, an increase in stress, disability and the risk of various diseases (cardiovascular, obesity, diabetes to name a few). In older patients little or no physical activity only adds up to exacerbate the symptoms related to arthritis in addition to the physiological aspects of aging.

On #WorldArthritisDay (October 12), we tell you how physical therapy, guided by a specialist who can work closely with you and guide you to loosen up the stiff joints, can work wonders in improving mobility and quality of life. By improving your range of motion, physical therapists can get you back to a point where you can again perform your everyday activities without pain and requiring any support. [1]

Stretch Out Your Arthritic Joint Naturally, With Physical Therapy
Your body is capable of engaging in a variety of activities, physical therapy exploits this very principle to engage you in light and well-constructed exercises to improve flexibility. It mainly targets increasing the limited range of motion that arthritis patients face.

The Arthritis Foundation of America also regards physical therapy as an effective treatment strategy for arthritis. It describes the main goals of physical therapy as:

  • Improving mobility and restoring the use of affected joints
  • Increasing strength to support joints
  • Maintaining overall fitness
  • Improving the ability to perform regular daily activities and minimize your dependence on others
  • Enhance balance and prevent falls [2,3,4,5,6]

Besides this, physical therapists with their elaborate and in depth knowledge of human physiology, anatomy, biomechanics and exercise physiology are perhaps best suited to assess and advice how much physical activity can an arthritic patient incorporate in his or her daily life.

Working With A Physical Therapist
Physical therapists are special doctors who can devise individualized exercise programs for you to improve flexibility, strength, coordination and balance to achieve optimal physical function.

They can assist you in understanding your joints better so that you can assess how your activities can impact your joints. However, they focus not only on your joints but also on the surrounding muscles, since stronger muscles can better stabilize a weakened joint.

You can ask your physical therapists about the various assistive and support devices available in the market. Besides, this they can also give you easy tips on minimizing pain and improve performance through the use of physical techniques.

Don’t have a lot of expectations and anticipate immediate outcomes. Remember, improvement is gradual and the therapy will be effective only if you are committed to practice the exercises at home on a daily basis or as suggested by the therapist. The key to a successful outcome is discussing your issues with your therapist and working together to achieve your goals—whether it is getting off the car without pain, raising your toes to reach the kitchen cabinet or just talking a walk in the park.

For more interesting stories, visit our Health page. Read more stories on Complementary and Alternative Medicine here.

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1. Warburton DE, Nicol CW, Bredin SS. Health benefits of physical activity: the evidence. CMAJ. 2006 Mar 14;174(6):801-9. Review. PubMed PMID: 16534088; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC1402378.

2. Buljina AI, Taljanovic MS, Avdic DM, Hunter TB. Physical and exercise therapy for treatment of the rheumatoid hand. Arthritis Rheum. 2001 Aug;45(4):392-7. PubMed PMID: 11501728.

3. Rahnama N, Mazloum V. Effects of strengthening and aerobic exercises on pain severity and function in patients with knee rheumatoid arthritis. Int J Prev Med.2012 Jul;3(7):493-8. PubMed PMID: 22891151; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3415190.

4. Holden MA, Nicholls EE, Hay EM, Foster NE. Physical therapists’ use of therapeutic exercise for patients with clinical knee osteoarthritis in the United kingdom: in line with current recommendations? Phys Ther. 2008 Oct;88(10):1109-21. doi: 10.2522/ptj.20080077. Epub 2008 Aug 14. PubMed PMID: 18703675; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC2557052.

5. Van Den Ende CH, Vliet Vlieland TP, Munneke M, Hazes JM. Dynamic exercise therapy for rheumatoid arthritis. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2000;(2):CD000322. Review. Update in: Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2008;(1):CD000322. PubMed PMID: 10796342.

6. de Jong Z, Munneke M, Zwinderman AH, Kroon HM, Jansen A, Ronday KH, van Schaardenburg D, Dijkmans BA, Van den Ende CH, Breedveld FC, Vliet Vlieland TP, Hazes JM. Is a long-term high-intensity exercise program effective and safe in patients with rheumatoid arthritis? Results of a randomized controlled trial.Arthritis Rheum. 2003 Sep;48(9):2415-24. PubMed PMID: 13130460.

With a Master’s degree in biochemistry from the University of Exeter,UK and a diploma in food science & quality control, Stephlina is intrigued with the intricacies of the human body. She shares a deep interest in human diseases and believes that popping pills is not the only solution to fight an ailment.