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It feels disheartening to see the older ones at our home struggling with joint pain and stiffness due to arthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis is one among the 100 different types of arthritis and is an autoimmune disorder. It causes the body’s immune system to attack its own healthy cells, thus leading to inflammation, pain, and swelling in the affected parts. 

If you are looking for arthritis pain relief in Highland, IN, physical therapy can help you. Even though there is no permanent cure for arthritis, physical therapy can reduce the symptoms of arthritis and prevent it from getting worse. 

Physical therapy modalities and specifically designed exercise programs help promote arthritis pain relief by maintaining stronger bones, improving balance and range of motion, and allowing the patients to live independent lives.

Physical therapy treatment also aids in the patients’ social and emotional adjustment, boosts their confidence, and helps them recover faster from arthritis pain.

This article provides information on rheumatoid arthritis and how physical therapy effectively manages its symptoms and minimizes pain.

What is Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune inflammatory disorder that attacks many joints at once, most commonly, the hand, wrist, and knee joints. 

We all know that the immune system fights bacteria and viruses in a normal and healthy individual. For people with rheumatoid arthritis, this immune system mistakes the body’s healthy cells for bacteria and viruses and releases inflammatory chemicals to fight them, thus mistakenly affecting the synovium.

The synovium, the tissue that lines around the joints and produces fluid that allows smooth joint movement, gets inflamed and thicker, thus causing joint pain, swelling, tenderness, and inability to move the joints. The condition further leads to chronic pain, lack of balance, bone erosion, and joint deformity.

The most common symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis include pain, stiffness, tenderness, swelling in more than one joint, weight loss, weakness, fever, and fatigue. 

Rheumatoid arthritis also affects other body parts like skin, eyes, lungs, heart, kidneys, and nerve tissue.

Women are three times more likely to get rheumatoid arthritis compared to men and can occur at any age, but most commonly starts in middle age. Being overweight can also increase the risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis. 

A person may develop an increased risk of the disease if their family member has rheumatoid arthritis. Cigarette smoking also increases your risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis.

How Physical Therapy Help Manage Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Physical therapists ask for symptoms, how long they exist and conduct a physical examination to check joint swelling, redness, and pain. With the help of these analyses, physical therapists design an individualized treatment plan that includes pain-relieving modalities, therapeutic exercises to improve joint flexibility, and some lifestyle changes.

1) Exercises

Exercises are essential components in managing rheumatoid arthritis by promoting good joint health. The American College of Rheumatology recommends that rheumatoid arthritis patients get 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity every week, that is, thirty minutes of exercise 5 days a week.

Walking, dancing, and water aerobics are some of the examples of aerobic activities patients can do. Strengthening exercises like lightweight lifting and push-ups help improve strength and endurance in the affected joints. They can also add yoga and Pilates to their exercise routine to improve joint flexibility.

Therapeutic exercises boost the immune system, enhance energy, and help maintain a healthy weight. They promote the normal range of motion, strengthen joints, bones, and muscles, and reduce fatigue. People with rheumatoid arthritis can have a restful sleep when they exercise regularly.

2) Hydrotherapy

Water’s properties lift the patients’ body, compress the aching muscles and joints, and allow them to experience less pain while exercising in water. Hydrotherapy strengthens and conditions the affected joints and muscles and reduces the risk of further injury. It is effective in relieving pain and stiffness caused by rheumatoid arthritis and managing symptoms.

3) Heat or Cold Therapy

Heat therapy increases blood flow to the joints affected by rheumatoid arthritis and eases muscle tension. Using heated packs or taking a warm shower in the morning do good. Cold therapy performed using cold packs reduces blood circulation and decreases swelling and inflammation in the affected joints, thus promoting arthritis pain relief.

4) Massage Therapy

Massage promotes blood circulation, induces relaxation, and reduces muscle tension in rheumatoid arthritis patients. It helps patients manage their stress resulted from pain caused by the condition.

5) TENS Therapy

Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation uses low-voltage electrical impulses to stimulate the nerve cells to block pain signals to the brain, thus reducing pain and increasing the release of endorphins, the human body’s natural painkillers. TENS therapy is also effective in decreasing muscle spasms.

6) Ultrasound Therapy

Ultrasound therapy utilizes sound waves to create vibration and heating effects in the deep tissues to promote the healing mechanism. It enhances blood circulation, reduces joint pain, swelling, and stiffness.

7) Lifestyle Changes

People with rheumatoid arthritis need to eat a healthy diet to manage pain and symptoms. Beans, lean proteins, omega-3 fatty acids, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables provide energy to fight the inflammation and pain caused by the condition. Having good sleep is also essential to physical and mental well-being. Deep breathing exercises and meditation also do the needful to reduce stress and calm the body.

Final Thoughts

Arthritis can cause severe pain and swollen joints, limiting an individual’s ability to live an independent life. Unfortunately, there is no complete cure for arthritis, but physical therapy can effectively manage arthritis symptoms and reduce pain through regular exercises combined with a proper anti-inflammatory diet and good sleep habits.

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