Arthritis is, unfortunately, an all-too-common condition which, strictly speaking, means “inflammation of the joints.” Inflammation occurs in the body when tissue damage is present and generally includes the following 4 symptoms: heat, swelling, redness, and pain. It has been reported that there are over 100 different diseases that can cause arthritis, however, there are two dominant types: osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis is a systemic (or body-wide) condition that affects not only the joints of the body, but also other body systems including the urinary system, gastrointestinal system, and cardiac system. Osteoarthritis affects usually isolated joints and the surrounding connective tissue and muscle often causing chronic or long term pain. Left untreated, these conditions can lead to severe limitations in function.
To understand arthritis better, an anatomy lesson is helpful. Joints are formed when two bones come together and are surrounded by ligaments. On the end of these bones is a thin layer of cartilage. The surrounding ligaments form a watertight sac called the joint capsule. Filling this capsule is synovial fluid which lubricates the cartilage on the ends of the bone to keep them healthy. Muscles surround the joint, often inserting directly into the ligaments, to create the potential for movement. Bursa sacs are often present between muscles, ligaments, and bones to prevent friction. Problems with any of these components results in a biomechanical dysfunction leading to pain, cartilage breakdown, muscle weakness, joint stiffness, and inflammation. This is what is known as osteoarthritis. People from all walks of life can suffer from arthritis. Research indicates that nearly 2/3 of sufferers are women but there are some specific types where the majority of sufferers are men. Some types of arthritis affect youthful individuals while the majority of sufferers are in their later adult years.
Treatment of arthritis varies depending on the severity and cause of the condition. Physical therapy can be extremely useful to limit inflammation, reduce pain, and improve biomechanics. Limiting inflammation and reducing pain is accomplished through the application of various modalities including heat, ice, electrical stimulation, and manual therapies. Improving biomechanics also involves the use of skilled manual therapy to decrease joint stiffness which can improve cartilage health. Furthermore, gentle muscle strengthening and endurance exercise can improve the mobility around the affected joint. Maintaining range of motion, flexibility, and strength of both your joint systems and musculoskeletal systems is crucial to living with arthritic conditions.
At Reger Physical Therapy we work with you to design an individualized treatment plan of care. We do this through an initial evaluation where we assess your pain, range of motion. joint mobility, and strength, and how all of these contribute to your current functional ability. We then work with you on follow up visits to carry out the individualized treatment plan. Furthermore, each session will involve reevaluation to make sure that we are on the right track and that you are receiving the desired outcome.