Arthritis Awareness Month – Understanding Who Physical Therapy Can Help

While there are over 100 types of arthritis, one of the things almost all types have in common is that those who are suffering can benefit from physical therapy. Because there are various types of arthritis, the methods used in physical therapy will be different, as will the potential outcomes of the physical therapy. The goals of the patients will differ too.

In this article, we will look at the most common types of arthritis, the types of physical therapy that might help, and the possible outcomes of receiving physical therapy.

 

The Two Most Common Types of Arthritis

Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid arthritis are the two most common types of arthritis. While both types can initially be similar in their symptoms, their causes are dramatically different.

Osteoarthritis is caused by wear and tear on the joints of the body. It often takes years for the symptoms to build, so it gradually gets worse. Obesity has a strong correlation with this type of arthritis, particularly in the knees. The previous injury can also contribute to the onset of osteoarthritis.

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease. Its cause isn’t known, but it is thought to affect about 0.2% of the population. Rheumatoid arthritis has a much more sudden onset than osteoarthritis. Symptoms can get much worse over the course of weeks, and they often include swelling of the joints.

 

What Types of Physical Therapy are there?

Physical therapy can be broadly divided into two categories: passive treatments and active treatments.

Passive treatments are often helpful with severe cases of osteoarthritis and early cases of rheumatoid arthritis. They include hydrotherapy, massage, heat and cold therapy, or ultrasound. For those in too much pain to begin active therapy, these options can help get them ready to start becoming more active.

Active therapy can be used to prevent osteoarthritis from becoming worse. It can also be used once sufferers of rheumatoid arthritis are able to increase their range of motion and activity. Active therapy includes flexibility and strength training, aerobic exercise, and some forms of hydrotherapy.

Active therapy will help patients reduce pain, gain strength, and increase flexibility and range of motion. It can also help with weight loss, which can be a main contributing factor to the pain caused by arthritis.

 

The Outcome of Physical Therapy

When starting physical therapy, patients should clearly specify the goals they want to achieve. Clearly informing your physical therapist what your desired objectives are will assist them in creating a customized personal plan that is right for you. You might have a goal as simple as getting out of your car without feeling pain, or it might be a bigger one like running a 5 km race as you used to. Whatever it is, a physical therapist can set you on the right path for achieving your goals.

 

If you or a loved one are suffering from arthritis, contact Preferred Therapy Solutions and how our clinical model can assist your facility contact Jim MacManus, Director of Business Development at jmacmanus@preftherapy.com. #itsallaboutthepatient.

Occupational vs. Physical Therapy: Which Can Help You Most?

On the surface, occupational therapy and physical therapy seem incredibly similar. Both therapy types focus on rehabilitation, often for patients who are recovering from an injury or procedure. Therapists in both fields often work closely together, creating cohesive treatment plans for patients who require both services. And while there is a lot of overlap between the two fields, the most obvious difference is in the end goal. Put simply, physical therapy is meant to help you move, while occupational therapy is to help you do.

Physical Therapy

The goal of physical therapy is to help patients get back on their feet—sometimes literally! Physical therapists (PTs) are movement experts who focus on reducing pain, restoring movement, and improving gross motor skills in the patients they work with. Physical therapy also focuses on building strength to prevent a similar injury from occurring in the future.

PTs not only do hands-on work with their patients, but they also provide emotional support! Most therapists understand the emotional toll an injury can have on a person, and they often become cheerleaders for their patients—encouraging them and applauding them every step of the way. One of the aims of physical therapy is to give patients independence and strength to follow through with rehabilitation after their treatments have ended.

Occupational Therapy

The goal of occupational therapy is to help patients perform tasks that they need or want to accomplish. Occupational therapists (OTs) do this by adaptation. In most cases, the activity, environment, or patient’s skills will need to be modified to accomplish tasks that may seem mundane to a person in relatively good health. OTs often help patients to improve their fine motor skills after neurological damage or after an injury.

When developing treatment plans, OTs take the whole person into account and consider how their environment, emotional state, and physical limitations will affect their participation in activities. Occupational therapy aims to give patients independence as they learn to navigate daily tasks in a way that works for them.

A Practical Approach to Rehabilitation

Uh-oh—you’ve broken your hand! A doctor examines you and determines that you have not only broken a few bones, but you also have nerve damage. After the initial healing stages are complete, she refers you to physical and occupational therapists.

Your physical therapist is sorry to hear that you hurt your hand, but confident that you can regain strength! They determine your current range of motion and then demonstrate exercises you can do to start improving your strength. You keep doing your exercises at home and you feel your strength improving. But you’re still having a hard time making your fingers fully cooperate with you—that pesky nerve damage has done a number on them!

Your occupational therapist hears your concerns and is ready for battle. They start with something simple: brushing your teeth. You’re finding it difficult to hold a toothbrush and move it across your teeth, so they help you modify the activity to something you can accomplish. You know you still have a long way to go, but you’re already feeling way more confident about keeping up with your regular routine.

 

Both physical and occupational therapy can be crucial to helping patients recover fully from injuries. If you’ve been referred for therapy, check out Preferred Therapy Outpatient and Wellness of Bethel. Our team is ready to work with you!