Arthritis

By: Dr. Clifford Yun, PT, DPT

By definition, a joint is "the point of contact between elements of an animal skeleton with the parts that surround and support" (Merriam Webster).  As very general definition arthritis can be defined as joint pain. In reality, arthritis is actually an umbrella of a diagnosis and there are many types of arthritis.  To simplify things we can discuss what are signs of joint pain related to arthritis and then go into the commonly discussed types of arthritis. 

 

Signs of joint pain related to arthritis:

 

Osteoarthritis (OA)

This is the most common type of arthritis that is often found in the hips, knee, fingers, toes, and back(OA can exist at any joint). Essentially OA is the result of wearing away of the rubbery cartilage cushion between our joints. As we age or overuse a joint the cartilage wears away and the joint bones rub against each other causing arthritis. 

For more information on OA specifically, check out the ArthritisFoundation.org

 

Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)  The MayoClinic perfectly summarizes RA as the following:

"An autoimmune disorder, rheumatoid arthritis occurs when your immune system mistakenly attacks your own body's tissues."

"Unlike the wear-and-tear damage of osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis affects the lining of your joints, causing a painful swelling that can eventually result in bone erosion and joint deformity"

 

Physical Therapy and Arthritis

Just as there are a variety of arthritis symptoms there are a variety of ways physical therapy can assist the reduction of OA or help reduce the inflammatory symptoms associated with RA. Both types of arthritis can lead to the compensatory use of the joints involved. This, in turn, leads to weakness and possibly more pain in the same areas as well as other areas of the body. 

 

At physical therapy, we can utilize our tools to reduce inflammation and swelling and assist the recovery of the joint (ice, heat, electric stimulation, ultrasound, cold laser). Strength deficits can be addressed by teaching movements that will reduce joint weakness and fatigue. Manual therapy each can improve joint stiffness and muscles stiffness and thus improve how the joint moves with the arthritis signs and symptoms. 

 

If you have pain, weakness, and other symptoms related to this topic call 212-956-2900 or go to the Contact section of our webpage for an appointment

For more information on arthritis and exercise check out our blog post on arthritis and aging and also see these pages:

1 - The Secret To Joint Pain Relief - Harvard

2 - Exercise Helps Joint Pain and Stiffness - The Mayo Clinic

3 - Simple Exercises for Joint Health - WebMD

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