Orthopedic physical therapists can treat a number of joint disorders, including those affecting the shoulder, knee, hip, ankles, feet, hands and spine. They can help restore function to a damaged or injured joint, as well as the surrounding tendons, ligaments and bones. Physical therapists have expert knowledge in how the body moves and understand that gaining control over your body is important for your self-esteem, well-being, and ability to function at work, home and play. Their goal is to get you back to your regular lifestyle, without pain or difficulty. Seeking out a physical therapist can be a great choice if you have joint pain.
Physical Therapy for Joint Pain
Physical therapy can benefit many different joint conditions and injuries and can help improve chronic pain over time by treating the underlying causes of the pain, which may result from a degenerative condition such as arthritis. Physical therapy often is recommended for arthritic pain because it can help to strengthen joints that have been weakened by damage or inflammation. Physical therapy can also help to reduce pain and stiffness in the joint and improve mobility and your range of motion.
Customized Physical Therapy Programs
Your physical therapist will work with you to design a customized therapy program which is tailored to meet your specific requirements. A physical therapist will take care of you in all phases of healing – from diagnosis, to recovery and the preventative stage of care to reduce further injury. When it comes to joint pain, physical therapy can help relieve pain by providing a personalized progressive exercise program, plus therapeutic modalities, such as massage, heat/cold packs or ultrasound to minimize discomfort and improve flexibility. Oftentimes your physical therapist will employ manual therapy techniques to mobilize the joint and surrounding tissue; she may also use a transcutaneous nerve stimulation (TENS) machine or other tools to promote healing.
Education is Key
With physical therapy, education is a key element of a full and successful treatment plan. Expect your physical therapist to provide a regimen of activities and exercises to learn in her office and perform at home; these activities and exercises may include stretching as well as strengthening and flexibility to help the joint.
Pre- and Post-Operative Care
In many cases, physical therapy is used to prevent surgery; in others as part of a post-operative treatment plan to help regain functionality and reduce recovery time. Should your orthopedist recommend joint surgery, he may also recommend you participate in physical therapy before you undergo the procedure to strengthen muscles, ligaments and tendons to reduce recovery time after surgery. Post-op, you will rely on your physical therapist to help you familiarize with equipment such as walking aids, braces and splints; you also will receive a treatment plan to help you regain strength, mobility and flexibility during the recovery period.