Are you experiencing pain, muscle aching, stiffness, or swelling?  These symptoms could be attributed to arthritis.  According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), arthritis is the most common cause of severe, chronic pain and disability in the United States, limiting the activities of nearly 21 million adults.  Thankfully, through physical therapy, individuals with arthritis are able to reduce their pain, increase and maximize joint mobility, muscle flexibility; and prevent functional loss.

Physical Therapy helps maintain joint mobility and range of motion. How much therapy you need, and what kind of therapy will depend on many factors, such as the severity and type of arthritis you have, your age, and your general state of health.

People with arthritis will often avoid moving the affected joint because of the pain. A physical therapist can help the patient work out the joint stiffness without damaging it. In order to perform your daily activity the physical therapist will help you achieve a good range of motion. This may involve building strength in the muscles that surround the affected joint – stronger muscles help stabilize a weakened joint. You will also be taught the best way to move from one position to another, as well as learning how to use such walking aids as crutches, a cane or a walker, if you need one.

A Physical Therapist can make an enormous difference to your quality of life if you suffer from arthritis. A physical therapist will help you learn more about your arthritis and avoiding pain. You will learn how and when to rest – rest is crucial for treating inflammation and pain, especially when many joints are affected and you feel tired.

Protecting Your Joints

There are things you can do to protect your joints as you go through your day. Some of these things will prevent more stress and strain to your joints. Others will keep joint problems from getting worse.

Ideas to Try When in the Kitchen:

  • Use your larger joints instead of smaller joints for lifting, pulling, pushing, or carrying items. and these may be easier for you to use.
  • Wash dishes or wipe counters with a large sponge. This way you can keep your hand open and use pressure from your arm to clean.
  • Use lightweight utensils, pans and dishes made of aluminum or plastic instead of heavier metal or ceramic.
  • Store things in your kitchen where they are easy to reach. Slide out shelves can lessen stress on your joints.
  • Use both hands when lifting. Wear oven mitts and place the palms of both hands around the sides of a pan.
  • Slide pots and pans on counters rather than lifting.
  • Use the palm of your hand to open and close twist lids on jars instead of your fingers.
  • Use a wall mounted jar opener or an electric can opener.
  • Keep things you use often where they are easy to reach.
  • Hold utensils by keeping your knuckles parallel to the handle.
  • Use frozen vegetables that are already chopped or use a blender or chopper to cut up vegetables.
  • Cut open sealed bags instead of trying to tear them open.
  • Mix things with a mixer or blender. If you want to mix by hand, use a spoon or utensil with a built up handle and stir with a shoulder motion. Large handled spoons, forks and other utensils can lessen stress on your joints.
  • Cook noodles, potatoes and vegetables in a wire basket set in a pot of water. When done, lift the basket to drain and you don’t need to lift the heavy pot of water.

Ideas to Try When in the Bathroom:

  • A sponge or bath mitt may work better than a washcloth so you don’t have to wring it out and it is easier to hold.
  • Bathe or shower when you have the most energy.
  • Wash your hair in the shower if you can. Use the tips of your fingers and keep your fingers straight.
  • A chair or stool may be helpful in the tub or shower so you don’t have to bend as much. A safety grab bar may make getting in and out of the shower or tub much safer and easier, even if you have someone there to help you.
  • A raised toilet seat and grab bars around the toilet may help you get up and down from the toilet more easily.
  • Squeeze the toothpaste onto your brush by placing it over the edge of the sink and pushing on the tube with your arm or side of your palm.
  • Sit while combing your hair. You may find it easier to rest your elbows on a table so you don’t have to raise your arms as much.
  • Keep all your supplies near the tub or shower in easy reach

Ideas to Try When Working in the House:

  • Take breaks when vacuuming or doing other chores so you don’t get tired.
  • Use flat sheets instead of fitted sheets. That last corner on a fitted sheet can be very hard to do, unless you have help.
  • Have things at a good height and within easy reach when you do a task so you don’t have to reach and bend as much.
  • Keep cleaning items on each floor so you don’t have to carry them up and down the stairs.
  • Use a dishwasher or let dishes soak instead of scrubbing.
  • Use long handled mops, dusters and dustpans.

Research indicates that physical therapy combined with medical management enhances function and independence and reduces disability.  While there is no cure for arthritis, people can learn techniques to reduce pain and limitations, thereby improving their quality of life.  If you or someone you know has arthritis, please give us a call at 516-829-0030. We will be happy to help!

Sources: www.apta.org; www.arthritistoday.org; www.cdc.gov

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