If arthritis is limiting your activities, a physical therapist can help.
A physical therapist (PT) can help you get moving safely and effectively. Physical therapists are licensed professionals with graduate degrees and clinical experience who examine, diagnose and treat or help prevent conditions that limit the body's ability to move and function in daily life, according to the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA).
Physical therapy focuses on the body’s ability to engage in movement. Movement can be anything from getting in and out of chairs to climbing stairs, walking in your neighborhood, playing a sport or doing recreational activities.
Goals of physical therapy in arthritis include improving the mobility and restoring the use of affected joints, increasing strength to support the joints, and maintaining fitness and the ability to perform daily activities.
What Can a Physical Therapist Do for You?
Develop an individualized plan of exercises to improve flexibility, strength, coordination and balance to achieve optimal physical function.
The goal of a physical therapy session is to teach you how to do things in your treatment plan – such as performing certain exercises, or how to best use hot/cold compresses – for yourself. The visits are often short and focus on identifying problems with your physical function and giving strategies for care that you can do at home.
The key to a successful outcome is learning the exercises from a physical therapist and practicing them at home over the long term. Improvement is gradual – the body gets stronger and more adept slowly over time – so consistent practice is essential.
When visiting the PT, think clearly about what your complaint is and what you would like to be able to do after physical therapy. Your goal can be getting in and out of your car without pain, raising up on your toes or raising your arms to reach items in your kitchen cabinets, taking a walk or performing your job without pain in the hips, knees and feet. Your PT can then work with you to develop a plan that is right for you to achieve your goals.
Kenneth Mauck, MPT, MS , Manual Therapy Expert