What Is Arthritis?

Arthritis is very misunderstood to this day by the average person.  Actually, “arthritis” can be multiple things; the term “arthritis” is a formal way of referring to joint pain or joint disease. According to arthritis.org, “there are more than 100 different types of arthritis and related conditions.”

People of any age, sex or race can be diagnosed with arthritis, and it is one of the leading disabilities in all of America. It is estimated that more than 50 million adults and 300,000 children have some form of arthritis. It is most common among women, especially persons of older age.


Common symptoms of arthritis include the swelling, pain, stiffness and decrease range of motion of your joints. The symptoms of arthritis may come and go and can be mild, moderate or severe. Your symptoms may stay the same for years, or they may progress and get much worse over time.

Severe arthritis can result in chronic pain, inability to do daily activities and even make it difficult to walk or climb a fleet stairs.

Arthritis can cause permanent joint difficulties. These difficulties may be visible, such as huge knobby finger joints, but often the damage can only be seen on X-ray by your doctor.

Most common types of arthritis:

Degenerative Arthritis

Degenerative Arthritis is also known as, Osteoarthritis, and it is the most common type of arthritis. When your cartilage – the slick, cushion-like surface on the ends of bones – wears away, your bone begins to rub against other bones.  This causes pain, swelling and stiffness.

Over time, your joints can lose significant strength and the pain may become chronic and ongoing, greatly reducing your quality of life.

How Physical Therapy can treat Osteoarthritis:

  • We setup a balancing activity with rest
  • We use a mix of hot and cold therapies
  • We setup a regular physical activity plan to restore strength
  • We work to strengthening the muscles around the joint
  • We help you restore your range of motion using assistive devices
  • We’ll advise you what excessive repetitive movements to avoid

Osteoarthritis can be prevented by staying active, maintaining a healthy weight, and avoiding injury and repetitive movements.

Inflammatory Arthritis

Inflammatory Arthritis occurs when your  immune system goes awry, mistakenly attacking your joints with uncontrollable inflammation.  This can potentially cause serious joint erosion and may even damage some internal organs.

Rheumatoid arthritis and psoriatic arthritis are perfect examples of inflammatory arthritis.

Modern research believes that a combination of genetics and environmental factors will trigger this auto-immune disease. Excessive smoking is an example of an environmental risk factor.

With auto-immune and inflammatory types of arthritis, early diagnosis and aggressive treatment is important. Slowing the disease can help minimize or even prevent permanent joint damage.

Physical Therapy is very limited.  Treatment can help, but this condition can’t be cured

What Physical Therapy can do:

  • Introduce Exercise.  The goal of it is to keep you moving. Methods are used stimulate the muscles, bones and joints, resulting in more strength, tone and overall fitness.
  • Heat and ice therapy. We’ll treat inflamed or painful joints with heat or ice packs helps some people feel better.
  • Massaging.

Metabolic Arthritis

When uric acid is formed as the body breaks down purines, a substance that is found in human cells and in many foods. Some people have abnormally high levels of uric acid because they naturally produce more than is needed or the opposite can occur and your body can product very little. In some people the uric acid builds up and forms serveral needle-like crystals in the joints, resulting in sudden shocks of extreme joint pain.

Unfortunately, this condition can not be cured.

But, physical therapy is a asset as it is a non-invasive treatment.

Physical therapists will work on specific exercises for the joints affected, and to work on your overall health and wellness. Physical therapists can teach you stretching and strengthening activities to keep your joints healthy and help you in your daily life while affected with arthritis. Additionally, physical therapists have manual therapy techniques and modalities to manage swelling. When swelling is reduced, pain is reduced.

How is Arthritis Diagnosed

Your first Arthritis diagnosis should begin with your primary physician.  Your physician may perform a physical exam and may even do some blood tests and imaging scans to help them determine the type of arthritis of are suffering from. An arthritis specialist, or rheumatologist, should be able to diagnosis whether the arthritis may be inflammatory.  When the arthritis affects other body systems or parts, other specialists, such as ophthalmologists, dermatologists or dentists, may also be included in the diagnosis and treatment process.