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What is Arthritis and How to Manage It


By Kate Zanoni, LPTA

What exactly is arthritis? Arthritis is a degenerative joint condition that occurs overtime. As we use our joints throughout our lifetime, we get a lot of wear and tear on them. Overtime, this causes the cartilage or the cushioning between the joints, to rub and wear down. Arthritis is that wearing down of the cartilage and once that cushioning layer is gone, our bones will rub on other bones. As you can imagine, this can be very painful and leads to a lot of inflammation in the joint as well as stiffness and swelling.

What causes arthritis? The cause is the wear and tear and breakdown of the cartilage and the reduction of that cushioning between the joints. Overtime, the bones are also going to start to degenerate. When that bone on bone rubbing starts occurring, you can also get a bony overgrowth called a bone spur. Bone spurs cause a lot more pain with simple activities. Think about it in terms of walking. Your knee joint is rubbing and the bone spur is going to cause more rubbing so there will be more inflammation and pain in the joint. Let’s focus a little more on arthritis within the knee joint.

Knee Arthritis Symptoms:

  • A lot of pain and swelling inside the joint
  • A lot of stiffness not only in the joint but also in the surrounding muscles
  • A lose range of motion in your knees
  • You’re not going to be able to extend and bend your knees as well as you could before and that’s going to lead to a decrease in your overall mobility
  • Grinding and popping in your knee joints

Overtime, what can happen is you might have pain or difficulty getting up from a chair without pushing off with your hands. You might have difficulty going up and down stairs. Everyday activities like a preparing a meal, standing or walking can become very painful and very difficult.

What if arthritis is left untreated? If left untreated, arthritis is going to lead to further joint pain, further stiffness and inflammation. It’s going to worsen overtime if you don’t get it addressed. This is going to affect your day to day activities making you less mobile.

What can be done for arthritis? So one thing that we can do is help address arthritis with physical therapy. Unfortunately, there isn’t any cure for arthritis but it is very easily managed with physical therapy. In physical therapy, we’ll perform hands-on joint mobilization. This helps to ensure that your bones are sliding and gliding the way that they should. It also decreases some of the  stiffness in the joints. Physical therapy will help increase the lubrication in the joints so you’re not feeling as stiff and painful. This will also help decrease inflammation in the joint as well.

At Loudoun Sports Therapy Center, we’ll set you up with an individualized stretching program to help ensure those tight muscles are getting elongated. You won’t feel as much stiffness in the muscles, your joints will move better and more easily so you’ll find daily activities like getting up from a chair or using stairs are much easier. Our therapists will also set you up with a targeted strengthening program. In terms of arthritis in the knee, we’re going to focus not only on your quadriceps, the muscles in front of the thigh, but we’ll also focus on your glutes, your hamstrings, your calf muscles and your hips. We address the whole chain of command so that we help you get back to the activities you want and need to be able to do every day.

For more information on how physical therapy can address your arthritis pain, CLICK THE LINK