Physical Therapy for Arthritis

Arthritis is a common and well known diagnosis. Although arthritis cannot be cured with conservative measures, many patients are able to avoid major surgeries, such as a total joint replacement, with physical therapy for arthritis.

Arthritis is a common occurrence which primarily affects those over the age of 50, but can also affect younger individuals with rheumatoid arthritis, genetic conditions, or other congenital defects. The symptoms can vary significantly, depending upon the patient’s weight, genetics, occupation, footwear, posture, occupation, and activities which may increase the likelihood of developing arthritis such as football, soccer, and other higher impact activities.


The most common type of arthritis is osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis can be described as the breaking down of the cartilage. Cartilage is the lining over the ends of two bones that make a joint. Symptoms of arthritis include pain, stiffness, swelling, and redness in the joint. You may notice your symptoms feel worse in the mornings and ease up throughout the day.


Arthritis is inflammation with a joint and can be triggered by a variety of factors, including weight, age, prior injury, “wear and tear”, or genetics. Carrying extra weight throughout the body places greater stress on the joints and as you age, your risk of cartilage breaking down increases greatly. “Wear and tear” is a common term used to explain overuse of a joint. For example, baseball players who play for years may develop arthritis in their shoulders or wrists. Having a prior injury may also predispose you to later developing arthritis.

Arthritis Diagnosis

Your physical therapist will perform a comprehensive evaluation of your mobility, strength, sensation, and ability to perform everyday functions, such as putting on a jacket or walking. Your physical therapist will ask you questions regarding your everyday life to better understand how your arthritis is affecting you and to determine which exercises would be most effective as part of your arthritis diagnosis. We will observe you walking on level and uneven surfaces, balance on either leg, test your lower extremity strength, and thoroughly assess your joint mobility and feel for “crepitus”, which some patients describe as ‘Rice Krispies.’

Imaging provided by your orthopedist, especially X-Rays and MRI’s can also assist your physical therapist with an arthritis diagnosis. Any other scans or reports can be brought to your 1st appointment and reviewed with your physical therapist.

Treatment and Arthritis Exercises

Your physical therapist will create a personalized program to create a program aimed to increase the strength of the muscles surrounding the joint, improve stability of the joint, reduce pain with arthritis exercises, and teach you ways to manage the symptoms so you can get back to doing what you love.

Low impact weight bearing activities such as walking, a stationary bicycle, and aqua-exercise or swimming are some of the best ways to perform cardiovascular activities without placing significant strain on the joints. Exercises and a home exercise plan are an integral component of rehabilitation. Starting out slowly and gradually ramping up your exercise program to avoid excessive wear and tear is something that will be reviewed by your physical therapist.

Check out Specialized Physical Therapy to schedule a consultation to discuss your physical therapy for arthritis plan.

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