Rheumatoid Arthritis is a disease that triggers stiffness and inflammation in the joints. The disease often manifests in the fingers, ankles, elbows, wrists, and feet. This chronic condition can progress to the point that some of those joints become deformed and impossible to move with any degree of freedom. One of the most powerful tools used to combat this form of arthritis is physical therapy. Here are some of the ways this type of approach makes a difference.
The Importance of Exercise
Early in the process, the physical therapist will evaluate the physical condition of the patient. That’s necessary to come up with an exercise regimen that’s reasonable based on that general condition, but challenging enough to have some impact. Since the goal is to use exercise as a way to keep those stiff joints as limber as possible, the selection of exercises and the number of repetitions will vary from one patient to the next. By customizing the workout to fit the individual, the odds of maintaining a greater range of motion are much higher.
Using Heat and Cold
Many people think that Physical Therapy only focuses on exercises. While that is a large part of the treatment process, the therapist will employ other approaches. For example, massage of those stiff joints will be part of the process. Depending on what is happening with the patient, the massage may involve the use of heat as a way to loosen stiff muscles and joints. At other times, using some type of cold applied directly to inflamed joints may be necessary before any other course of treatment is used. The therapist is trained to recognize when each of these solutions is appropriate.
The Use of Water
Water that is heated to the right temperature can make it easier to perform some of the exercises. In fact, it’s not unusual for therapists to use a swimming pool as the setting for a round of exercises. The soothing heat from the water can make it easier to bend knees, flex the hands, and in general move without experiencing a great deal of pain. People who find those same exercises to be uncomfortable on land may be surprised at how much easier it is to manage each one when immersed in the warm water.
Since this form of arthritis is chronic, it will never go way. The goal is to manage the condition and allow the patient to enjoy a higher quality of life. On days when it seems as if nothing is coming together, encouraging words from the therapist will make it easier to keep going and hope for a better day tomorrow.
Before giving in and assuming there is nothing that will help, contact the Colorado Springs physical therapy clinic and arrange to speak with a therapist. Doing so will be the first step toward controlling the pain and being able to move more freely.