Arthritis is a catch-all term used to describe more than 100 different kinds of joint pain and joint disease. While arthritis is commonly believed to be a condition that afflicts the elderly, the reality is that it can strike people in early middle age. In fact, elite male athletes are more likely to develop arthritis than the general public. Arthritis medications and pain medicines can cause some nasty side effects. So, if you’re looking for a natural treatment for arthritis, consider meeting with a physical therapist at our office to learn how you can kick the meds and reduce your arthritis symptoms.
What Is Arthritis?
Osteoarthritis: The most common type of arthritis is osteoarthritis. This is caused by a reduction in joint cartilage as it wears away through age or “wear and tear.” This causes bones to rub together, which leads to pain and swelling. Physical therapy can often help to reduce arthritis pain without medication, especially if the arthritis is mild to moderate.
Inflammatory Arthritis: In certain cases, the body’s immune system will attack joint tissues with intense inflammation. Rheumatoid arthritis is one example of this type of condition. Inflammatory arthritis often has a genetic cause, and doctors usually treat it aggressively with drugs. However, depending on the severity of symptoms, physical therapy may be recommended for treatment as well.
Metabolic Arthritis: The most common type of metabolic arthritis is gout, a condition caused by uric acid crystals building up in the joints of the extremities, especially the feet. It’s typically caused by reduced kidney function. Physical therapy can help gout patients restore range of motion in the affected area and even reduce the buildup of the acidic crystals that accumulate in the joints.
Arthritis in Athletes
According to a study published in the American Journal of Sports Medicine, about 30 percent of elite male athletes who engage in contact sports such as football will develop arthritis in the knees and hips. That’s compared to about 19 percent of the general public. The wear and tear on the joints that results from high-contact sports increases the likelihood of developing arthritis. Soccer and handball players were found to be twice as “at risk” of arthritis later in life, and hockey players are three times as likely to develop arthritis.
Depending on the type of arthritis that a person has, doctors may prescribe NSAID pain relievers, corticosteroids, antirheumatic drugs or antibiotics. All of these carry a risk of side effects, and some can be extremely serious. NSAIDs can lead to an increased risk of blood clots, heart attack or stroke. Corticosteroids can contribute to cataracts, cause high blood sugar levels or even contribute to bone loss — which is terrible when you consider that the patient is already dealing with arthritis!
Physical Therapy for Arthritis
The goals when working with a physical therapist for arthritis treatment will include preserving a good range of motion, increasing strength to reduce stress on the joints, and other natural treatment options. Here are some of the benefits of working with our physical therapists:
- Your physical therapist will work with you to control your weight through exercise and diet. Controlling your weight helps to prevent added stress on weight-bearing joints.
- Posture work will help to reduce stress on your joints.
- Light exercises and stretching will help to increase range of motion in the affected areas.
- Your therapist will also recommend a schedule for rest and sleep to complement your exercises. This helps the body to heal and hopefully reduce arthritic inflammation and pain.
Every treatment regimen is different based on your body’s needs and your particular type of arthritis. The best way to get started on a med-free treatment through physical therapy is by calling and scheduling an appointment with one of our therapists.