Ways Physical Therapy Can Alleviate Osteoarthritis Symptoms

Ways Physical Therapy Can Alleviate Osteoarthritis Symptoms

June 4, 2024

While there are many different types of arthritis, osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common. OA is a degenerative joint disease that affects joints and surrounding structures and tissues, causing pain, stiffness, and loss of mobility. OA most commonly affects hands, knees, hips, lower back, and neck, but can affect other body parts. OA symptoms typically show up in older individuals, but it can affect much younger people as well, especially those with history of a prior joint injury. 

Factors that contribute to OA include:

  • Age >50 (typically)

  • History of joint injury

  • Overuse in work or sports

  • Obesity

  • Poor bone or joint structure alignment

  • Weak muscles

  • Genetics

  • Gender (women get OA more commonly than men)

  • Other environmental factors (i.e. occupation, diet, level of physical activity, etc). 

There is no cure for OA, but there are ways to manage OA to minimize pain, continue physical activities, maintain a good quality of life, and remain mobile.

Common symptoms of OA include: 

  • Pain or aching in a joint during activity or at the end of the day

  • Joint stiffness first thing in the morning or after long periods of rest

  • Limited range of motion

  • Clicking or popping in the joint with movement

  • Swelling around a joint

  • Muscle weakness around a joint

  • Joint instability or buckling

OA is typically diagnosed with a clinical exam and imaging (x-ray or MRI). While conservative treatments will not change the appearance of the imaging (i.e. “fix” the arthritis), there are many treatment options that can eliminate the symptoms of arthritis! 

Physical therapy (PT) can be very beneficial for individuals experiencing pain and stiffness from OA. Using an individualized care plan, PT can help manage or eliminate symptoms related to mobility and activity.  

Some benefits of PT for OA include:

  • Increased range of motion in your joints

  • Increased muscle strength – stronger muscles stabilize a weakened joint and reduce stress on the joint, thus reducing pain

  • Education on the use of assistive devices (i.e. canes, walkers, etc) if necessary – this can help to take stress off of your joints and muscles

  • Pain management – PTs use hands on manual therapy treatment, exercise, and education regarding activity modification to help reduce your pain

  • Increased functional mobility and quality of life

There are many people that have osteoarthritis on their x-rays, but are pain-free and able to do all of the activities they enjoy doing. A diagnosis of OA is not a sentence of pain for the rest of your life. Take action and partner with a physical therapist to work on achieving all of your personal goals!

If you are or someone you know is dealing with symptoms related to OA, please reach out to us at Elite Muscle Recovery. Our Doctors of Physical Therapy offer one-on-one specialized and customized care to all of our patients, with a strong focus on the patient’s particular needs and goals. We would love to work with you to achieve your goals!