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Physical Therapy and Exercise for Arthritis

Arthritis is a condition that can cause stiffness, pain and swelling in joints and other supporting structures of the body such as bones, muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Some forms of arthritis may affect other parts of the body, including various internal organs. There are many different types of arthritis including osteoarthritis (degenerative joint disease), rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, gouty arthritis, and septic arthritis. Arthritis can affect anyone at any age. Arthritis treatment often includes physical therapy and exercise. Physical therapy and exercise can help arthritis sufferers in many ways. The primary goal is to improve functional capacity to help reduce pain and fatigue associated with daily activities. Increasing the range of motion of a joint is the primary focus of physical therapy.

Physical therapy and exercise for arthritis focuses on pain relief, and in restoring function and movement. Physical therapy programs may provide therapeutic methods, including physical techniques and activity modifications. A physical therapy program consisting of manual therapy and exercise benefits patients with arthritis.

Gentle exercise helps to prevent bone loss and osteoporosis. Lifting weights is a beneficial exercise for arthritis and for joint support. Physical therapy and exercise reduces joint pain and stiffness, builds strong muscle around the joints, and increases flexibility, muscle strength, cardiac fitness, and endurance.

Some of the exercises prescribed for people with arthritis:

  • Range-of-motion exercises (stretching or flexibility exercises)
  • Strengthening exercises
  • Water exercises
  • Recreational exercises
  • Endurance or aerobic exercises

Physical therapy and exercise helps to:

  • Maintain normal joint movement
  • Strengthen muscles around the joints
  • Strengthen and maintain bone and cartilage tissue
  • Improve overall ability to do everyday activities
  • Maintain weight to reduce pressure on joints
  • Keep bone and cartilage tissue strong and healthy

Depending on the severity of arthritis, a physical therapist may suggest either isometric or isotonic exercises. A combination of manual physical therapy and exercise is more effective to reduce pain, dysfunction and stiffness in patients with osteoarthritis of the knee.

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