2 Your Health: May Is National Arthritis Awareness month

Brooke Smith, DPT, AZOPT Goodyear Clinic Manager and Physical Therapist

Do you or someone you know have pain in their joints? You may have symptoms of arthritis. Today, nearly 50 million Americans suffer from arthritis. Arthritis is often misunderstood as minor aches and pain associated with getting old. However, there are many different forms of arthritis that can occur at any age. Two-thirds of the population with arthritis occurs in people under the age of 65, including children. The three main types of arthritis are Osteoarthritis, Rheumatoid Arthritis and Juvenile Arthritis.

Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common form of arthritis and is characterized by progressive degeneration of the joint’s cartilage, causing bone to rub against bone. It most commonly occurs in weight bearing joints such as the hips, knees and lower back. OA has also been known to affect the neck, small finger joints, the base of the thumb and the big toe. Some of the symptoms include gradual development of stiffness within the joint, pain or joint soreness after overuse or inactivity, morning stiffness, and loss of motion/movement within the joint.

Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is a systemic disease characterized as inflammation of the joint lining causing pain, stiffness, warmth and swelling that can occur throughout the body. RA is symmetrical, affecting the same joints on both sides of the body. RA affects nearly three times the number of women than men and most commonly begins between the ages of 30 and 60 years old. Although there is no cure for RA, highly effective treatments exist including medications, physical therapy, physical activity, weight control and maintaining good overall health.

Juvenile arthritis (JA) can have many different forms but is generally described as an autoimmune and inflammatory condition that can develop in children ages 16 years and younger.

There are options, other than surgery, to help improve your symptoms like stretching, walking, strengthening, Tia Chi and physical therapy. As a physical therapist, my goals in treating arthritis are to decrease the amount of pain, improve strength of muscles to increase stability around the joint, stretch muscles that are tight and might be hindering proper body mechanics and improve joint protection. It has been shown in recent research that exercising is a valuable tool in decreasing the symptoms of arthritis. Some specific interventions that physical therapy might provide include modalities, braces and splints to protect joints, and hot or cold packs. A physical therapist will work with you to modify your daily activities and your environment to provide pain relief and improve function. Physical therapy will improve flexibility in your hamstrings, quads, calves and hip flexors while strengthening the muscles around your knee, hip and ankle. Your appointments may also include coordination and balance activities.

If you, or someone you know, is experiencing any of the signs and symptoms of arthritis, please contact AZOPT at 623-242-6908 to schedule an evaluation and learn how choosing physical therapy can improve your daily life!