An estimated 27 million Americans have some form of osteoarthritis (OA). OA is the most common form of arthritis and is usually caused by the deterioration of the joint beginning with the articular cartilage. Risk factors associated with OA include trauma, previous surgery involving the joint, obesity and a lifestyle that excessively loads or stresses the joint. The weight-bearing joints are often affected, with the knee and the hip being the most common.
Many people struggling with lower extremity arthritis related pain may be under the impression that there is very little you can do to manage arthritis pain other than live with it or have surgery. This is a typical misconception and is most definitely not the case. There are several viable options that can help successfully manage arthritis pain and in some cases may abolish pain entirely.
Lose weight. This is understandably often easier said than accomplished. However, there is no question that losing weight is one of the most effective ways of relieving not only load and stress to the lower extremity joints, but also has been shown to lead to improved overall health, improved quality of life, and certainly decreased arthritis related pain. A 10-15 pound weight loss can have a significant positive impact on pain levels. Losing weight is sometimes a bit more complicated for some folks but generally if you control your caloric intake, routinely exercise, and consume a diet with an emphasis on fresh foods, high in fiber, and is colorful with fruits and veggies it can definitely help. It is advisable to consult with a nutritionist for specific details on how you can improve your diet and lose weight.
Exercise. Research has shown that light to moderate activities can provide more benefit than harm to your joints and of course helps to promote weight loss. The key is selecting the right exercise for your condition, body type and any other notable limitations. There is unfortunately no one size fits all approach to exercise that will improve arthritis pain but there are a few activities that are typically appropriate for most arthritis patients such as light walking, pool exercise and low impact cycling. It is advisable to consult with your doctor of physical therapy so that they can prescribe an exercise program that is most appropriate for you. An evaluation and review of your radiographic imaging can help us determine the severity of arthritis and which movements or exercises will likely benefit your condition. It is worth noting that now with the availability of telehealth physical therapy, and the fact that it is covered by most insurances, we expect many arthritis pain sufferers will take advantage of the convenience and accessibility of this service and will benefit from significant pain relief.
Manual Therapy is hands on treatment directed to a joint for the purpose of improved circulation, decreasing pain and improving mobility. This treatment is also known as joint mobilization and can provide significant relief for patients struggling with arthritis related pain. This is typically performed by a doctor of physical therapy, doctor of osteopathic medicine, or a doctor of chiropractic. Joint mobilization directed to the neighboring joints can lead to reduced load and stress to the arthritic joint by normalizing ROM and ground reactions forces. This means that your body will be better equipped to sustain normal load from daily activity without undue stress and fatigue to the involved joint.
Surgery in some cases of advanced arthritis is necessary. Your surgeon will discuss your options and it is wise to consult with an orthopedic surgeon when other treatments and management strategies have failed. Surgical intervention for arthritis, especially joint replacement, can have a dramatically positive effect on pain levels and quality of life. Post operative rehabilitation is critical to achieve optimal outcomes. We recommend you seek a physical therapy company that is going to provide enough one on one direct contact with a doctor of physical therapy and a quality based model such as ProFysio. If it seems that your current physical therapy provider of choice is “too busy” it’s probably because they are and you should seek another opinion or option.
To learn more about solutions for lower extremity arthritis be sure to register for the free webinar, “Solutions for Lower Extremity Arthritis Pain” on July 9 at noon as part of our Zoom at Noon series. Dr. Leonard J. Somarriba, DPT and Dr. John P. Scafidi, DPT will present the keys to managing and decreasing arthritis related pain. Register from your mobile device by texting arthritis to 732-201-7886 or visit our Facebook page and sign up.