Joint Pain: Is it Osteoarthritis?

PT Picture2-crop-smallJoint pain can often be caused by Osteoarthritis, which affects more than 3 million people in the US each year.

WHAT IS IT? The most common form of arthritis, it plagues women more often than men.  Our chances of developing the debilitating disease increase with age. It occurs when the cartilage at the end your bones begins to wear down. The cartilage naturally helps absorb the stress that is placed upon the joint from daily activities. When the cartilage begins to wear down, a “bone on bone” sensation at the joint may occur. Osteoarthritis can affect any joint in the body, but most commonly affects the knees, hips, hands, and spine.  Usually the person will experience inflammation and redness along with pain and tenderness at the affected area.  Pain usually becomes more substantial with weight-bearing tasks.  In addition, the joint with often feel stiff.

WHAT CAUSES IT? There are many factors that could contribute to development of osteoarthritis, including:

  • past injuries to the joint
  • continuous repetitive movements
  • age, gender, weight, genetics

WHAT CAN BE DONE ABOUT IT?  If you start to notice symptoms similar to these, your doctor may suggest an x-ray which will reveal osteoarthritis. Once diagnosed, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (or NSAIDs) could be prescribed along with a physical therapy program.  In addition, depending on the severity of your condition, injections, draining the excess fluid within the joint, or even a joint replacement surgery may be suggested.

WHY PHYSICAL THERAPY? Physical therapy has proven to be very successful for people suffering with osteoarthritis, and does not feature any of the potential side effects of the other treatment options. A typical outpatient rehabilitation program should include the following elements:

  • A gentle stretching program which will help to restore the range of motion within the joint
  • Strengthening the muscles around the joint will help take away some of the stress on the joint which will help to alleviate pain.
  • If a land-based exercise program proves to be too painful or challenging, an aquatic exercise program is a great alternative option. The buoyancy of the water takes the stress off of the joints, making it less painful to perform weight-bearing exercises and easier to move the joint through a pain-free range of motion.

Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis and it can be very painful and difficult to maintain your normal daily living. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle of diet and exercise can help to manage symptoms. A regimen of physical therapy, including aquatic-based exercises, is a great treatment option to help you return to a comfortable lifestyle.

HARTZ Physical Therapy provides aquatic therapy in our Lititz office.  Call today for more information.  (A physician’s referral is not necessary for most insurances)