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Physical activity can improve function in arthritis

By Jerry Moczerniuk PT, DPT

The latest report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) based on 2017 survey data investigated the correlation between pain associated with arthritic conditions and physical activity. According to a 2015 study, about one in four adults in the United States have the conditions, 27% of which experience severe joint pain, making osteoarthritis one of the leading causes of global disability.

Physical inactivity was much more prevalent in persons with severe joint pain than among those with lesser degree of pain. Additionally, severe joint pain is also related to adverse physical and mental effects on function. In the past research has also identified physical inactivity as an underappreciated factor in diseases such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and even dementia.

Severe joint pain is often managed with prescription medications, which in and of themselves typically have side effects. Over the last few years the National Pain Strategy recommended that pain-management be multimodal, individualized, and non-dependent on prescription medications when able. Many previous studies, strongly supported by Professional Medical Associations and American Physical Therapy Association, recommend guided physical activities and exercises as a non-pharmacological treatment approach for individuals with joint pain. Moderate amount of physical activity among individuals with arthritis can have a significant impact on improving function and reduction in pain.

This is sort of a catch 22 phenomena. Typically, individuals who suffer from arthritis related joint pain, also verbalize pain and fear of worsening as a major barrier in beginning an exercise program. Fear of movement in individuals with OA can result in those individuals to further lose their mobility and have increased symptoms.

Over the years research has strongly suggested utilization of physical therapy services as primary treatment for osteoarthritis. Exercise therapy, which is defined as specific physical activity designed for specific therapeutic goals is particularly important. Many research studies support land based exercise therapy for reduction of symptoms and impairments in individuals suffering from arthritis. Physical therapy should be used as a bridge or a transition between physical inactivity and return to greater self guided physical activities/exercise. An individualized physical therapy treatment program, including guided therapeutic exercise progression can provide motivation and confidence for individuals with arthritis to begin an exercise regimen.

In New Jersey you can be evaluated and treated by a physical therapist without a referral from your doctor.

Dr. Moczerniuk is a Doctor of Physical Therapy, member of American Physical Therapy Association, and a clinical director at db Orthopedic Physical Therapy of Manalapan, located at 120 Craig Road, Suite 2. Dr. Moczerniuk can be reached at 732-462-2162 or at For more information, visit

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