Tackle your osteoarthritis and start 2020 right with a tailored PT plan
By Lily Beltran
Osteoarthritis is almost as widespread as the common cold—more than 30 million Americans suffer from this painful condition. OA, as it’s often called, can be debilitating. Pain in your knee or hip may keep you from the things you love, such as walking, gardening, and spending time with friends. No wonder that OA is the greatest cause of disability in adults.
According to the Mayo Clinic, you can’t cure or reverse osteoarthritis, but with the right treatment— including physical therapy—you can lessen the pain and move better. That’s great news! Before you can treat OA, however, it’s essential to know the cause, the risk factors, and the symptoms.
The Symptoms of Osteoarthritis
Osteoarthritis occurs when the cartilage cushioning the ends of your bones wears down over time. The result? Pain and stiffness in the affected joints, which could include your hips, knees, spine, and hands. Other symptoms, according to the Mayo Clinic, include:
Tenderness when you put gentle pressure on or near the joint.
The inability to move the joint through its full range of motion.
“Grating” sensation when you use your joint, as well as “popping” or “crackling”.
Bone spurs, extra bits of bone that form around the affected joint.
Swelling, possibly caused by soft-tissue inflammation.
Many factors, such as age, can lead to osteoarthritis. The experts at Arthritis.org list a few: genetics, injury and overuse, bone and joint disorders like rheumatoid arthritis, and obesity. Being overweight, for example, can put additional pressure on the joints, causing the cartilage in the hips and knees to break down faster than it should. Research also suggests that excess fat tissue can produce inflammatory chemicals that cause the joints to break down.
Treating Osteoarthritis with On-Demand Physical Therapy
When dealing with osteoarthritis, maintaining a good weight can ease your pain, improve your flexibility, and change your quality of life. The trick is to take the pounds off without further aggravating your OA symptoms. Your on-demand physical therapist can create a customized home exercise program, one that is low-impact and based on your current ability to function.
“One of the most important factors in osteoarthritis management is regular daily exercise,” says Ben Wobker, a practice owner and physical therapist at Luna. “A physical therapist can prescribe the right amount and type of exercise for you based on your pathology, age, function, goals, and deficits. Your program would include daily cardiovascular exercise, muscle strengthening, flexibility exercises for soft tissues and joints, and balance/gait retraining. I typically recommend 30-minute programs daily with workouts that include things like walking in your neighborhood with your dog.”
He adds, “However, the exercise is prescribed like medicine. Your OA absolutely needs exercise in the right dose, with consistency every week. And if you’re a PT, keep in mind that you don't want your OA patient to progress too slowly, but neither do you want to push too hard.”