Is Joint Pain Slowing You Down? | Blog

Is Joint Pain Slowing You Down?

  Posted: Nov 01, 2016

Is joint pain slowing you down?


Joint pain doesn't have to limit your life. Whether your pain is due to an injury or disease, Liberty Rehabilitation, Specialists, Physical and Occupational Therapy can help. With experienced and compassionate therapists who provide techniques tailored to your needs, our goal is to get you back to a full and active lifestyle quickly but efficiently.


If My Arthritis is Not Reversible, Why Should I See a Physical Therapist? Once a joint is showing arthritic changes or degeneration, it is true that degeneration will not reverse. However, research now is showing more and more how physical therapy can often make changes in the pain you experience from a joint that is diagnosed with arthritis to something that is more comfortable and bearable for you. Isn’t that great news?!


The Research


Patients with knee osteoarthritis who were treated in therapy with manual techniques (stretching and knee mobilizations) and exercises versus people who just did exercises at home had twice the pain relief and improvement of function compared to at home rehabilitation. This relief lasted when they were rechecked a year later! If home is where you are most comfortable, physical therapists can give you exercises to work on once you leave the facility!


Another study compared patients with hip osteoarthritis who were all treated by physical therapists. Half of the patients received manual therapy (stretching and mobilizations techniques to the hip) and half did exercises for the hip only. The patients who had their therapists performing manual therapy on them showed better improvements with pain, stiffness, motion, and function compared to those with exercises only. The improvements with the manual therapy group were still better 29 weeks later when rechecked!


The Techniques


The research above shows that a physical therapist performing manual techniquwere extremely beneficial for the patients when it came to pain reduction and ability to perform daily tasks. The manual techniques involve the therapist using their own hands to help stretch the patient and move the joints in a way that assists in creating more motion and function at the joint. Therefore, it is important to have these manual techniques performed, if deemed appropriate by your therapist, to obtain the highest level of pain relief and function.


Muscle Strength


Strengthening the muscles around your knee will be an essential part of your rehabilitation program. Individuals with OA who adhere to strengthening programs have been shown to have less pain and an improved overall quality of life. There are several factors that influence the health of a joint: the quality of the cartilage that lines the bones, the tissue within and around the joints, and the associated muscles. Due to the wear and tear on cartilage associated with knee OA, maintaining strength in the muscles near the joint is crucial to preserve joint health. For example, as the muscles along the front and back of your thigh (quadriceps and hamstrings), cross the knee joint, they help control the motion and forces that are applied to the bones.


Strengthening the hip and core muscles also can help balance the amount of force on the knee joint, particularly during walking or running. The “core” refers to the muscles of the abdomen, low back, and pelvis. A strong core will increase stability through your body as you move your arms and legs. Your physical therapist will assess these different muscle groups, compare the strength in each limb, and prescribe specific exercises to target your areas of weakness.


Manual Therapy


Physical therapists are trained in manual (hands-on) therapy. Your physical therapist will gently move and mobilize your muscles and joints to improve their motion, flexibility, and strength. These techniques can target areas that are difficult to treat on your own. In patients with knee OA, the addition of manual therapy techniques to exercise has been shown to decrease pain and increase function.


Who Can Benefit


Studies have discovered that it doesn’t matter what level or severity of hip/knee function, pain, or amount of motion a patient with arthritis in those joints. The patients who had manual therapy performed by the physical therapist had only positive results, which caused them to have less pain in the end. Really, a win for all.


Take Home Message


When you feel that the pain limits your everyday life function and reduces your ability to live life in the way that you would like to, then it may be time to consider surgery. However, we recommend to many people to try therapy first. Therapy is definitely worth a try and supported by the research in helping this condition. Therapy may assist in giving you more time before you have to go in for the surgery as well. Each person is different in how they present with joint function, and therapy is individualized to each patient. Physical therapy is shown in research to improve hip, knee  and other joint pain when diagnosed with osteoarthritis and improve overall function. In addition, improvements can last quite some time!


Remember: “You don’t stop moving because you get old. You get old because you stop moving!”



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