10 Q’s and A’s about Arthritis Pain

There are 40 million people in the United States who reportedly have arthritis. Are you or a loved one dealing with pain from arthritis and are not sure what to do about it? These 10 questions and answers can help give you some guidance about what it is you can do to manage your arthritis pain.

1. What is Arthritis?

  • Inflammation of one or more joints
  • Most common types of arthritis are:
    • Osteoarthritis
    • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Break down of cartilage in the joint that allows for smooth pain free motion
  • Primary symptoms:
    • Joint pain
    • Stiffness
  • Generally worsens with age
  • Severity of symptoms can be dictated by body weight

2. What are some of the causes of arthritis?

  • Age
  • Trauma or surgery
  • Increased body weight
  • Faulty joint mechanics
  • Decreased activity

3. What other health conditions often occur along with arthritis?

  • Heart Disease
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Depression

4. Does the beautiful state of Maine have more or less incidence of arthritis and secondary health problems than the national average? If so, why?

  • The State of Maine has a higher incidence of arthritis and secondary health problems most likely due to decreased activity levels
  • Recent research of cadavers has shown a progressive amount of knee arthritis associated with decreased activity levels more than what would be associated with body weight

5. Why does exercise and weight loss make a difference in decreasing or eliminating arthritis symptoms?

  • Exercise is crucial in improving muscle strength and flexibility as well as motion in the joints, which in turn allows motion to take place with less pain and inflammation

6. Why does Physical Therapy make a difference in treating Arthritis?

  • Increasing the motion of a stiff joint will help to decrease pain and allow the muscle of that joint to become more flexible with increased strength
  • What is crucial in decreasing arthritic pain?
    • Identifying the pattern of motion that is not allowing the body to move efficiently
    • Prescribing the appropriate exercises
    • Educating the patient on the causes (the why and the how)

7. Why is it so important to develop an individualized program in dealing with Arthritis symptoms?

  • Every person has their own health history with attributing risk factors. Taking those into consideration, patients can react differently even if prescribed the same exercises. Having an individualized program accommodates for the different motions that create added stress on the joints on a case-by-case basis.
  • Common patterns that would increase stress on the joints would include:
    • Being flat footed
    • Having restricted ankle and hip motion
    • Postural changes in the back creating excessive rounding and stiffness of the spine

8. What are good resources for learning about my Arthritis?

  • Arthritis Foundation has an excellent website: arthritis.org
  • Physical therapists and primary care physicians can identify individual risk factors and comorbidities and strategies to deal with them

9. What are some good generalized exercises for the treatment and prevention of arthritis?

  • Aerobic exercise. Do whatever type you like to do. If you can only tolerate short periods of exercise it still helps. Three sets of 10-minute periods of an exercise will help just as much as doing one 30-minute period when dealing with the arthritis symptoms.
    • The Arthritis Foundation advises doing a total of 150 minutes per week. 15 sets of 10-minute periods throughout the week.
  • Dynamic stretching which involves shoulder, hip and ankle motion are helpful in maintaining efficient motion in areas prone to arthritis.
  • Stretching exercises including calf stretching, hip stretching and chest stretching all help to maintain better posture to decrease the stress on the joints.

Examples of Exercises you can do at home

Slow March

Stand with upright posture and abdominals contracted, slowly bend and straighten hip as if you were marching. Use a countertop or non-rolling chair for stability if needed.

Scapular Adduction

Draw your shoulder blades back and down, trying to pinch shoulder blades together.

Pectoral Stretch

Place hands on either side of doorway as shown. Step one foot forward and gently lean chest forward to feel a mild to moderate sense of stretch across the stretch.

Gastroc Stretch

The leg you are stretching should be behind you. Keep the leg straight, bend the front leg and lean forward until you feel a stretch in your calf muscle.

Shoulder Circles

Make small circles forward and backwards. Keeping shoulders back and down.

Standing Hip Circles

Keeping knee straight and leg down towards the ground, move leg in circular motion. Do both clockwise and counterclockwise.

10. How can Back in Motion help me or my loved one?

  • If you are experiencing arthritic pain and are not sure what the next step should be, contact us for a no-cost consultation. You can chat with one of our licensed Physical Therapists in a private treatment room and discuss what your options are for treatment. We have helped MANY arthritis patients get back to doing the things they love.
  • Complete the Request an Appointment form below to get started!

Article written by Paul Brown, PT. Exercises demonstrated by Steve Faria, PTA.