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Ask the PT – Arthritis

Dear WSPT,

I have been experiencing some slight pain in my joints and I think I may be developing arthritis. What is the cause of arthritis? What are the warning signs I should be on the lookout for? How can I treat or manage my arthritis and how can physical therapy help?



Arthritis is a broad term for over 100 different musculoskeletal conditions involving inflammation of one or more joints. Arthritis is the leading cause of disability in America and it can affect people of all ages, sexes, and ethnic backgrounds, although it tends to affect the elderly and women more frequently. Arthritis can range from mild to chronic and the symptoms associated with it can come and go.

There are different main categories of arthritis. Inflammatory arthritis causes inflammation, the natural healing process of the body, to develop in joints, ligaments, and tendons without warning. Rheumatoid arthritis is the most common illness associated with inflammatory arthritis. Degenerative arthritis involves the cartilage of the bones and is called osteoarthritis, which commonly affects the elderly. Psoriatic arthritis is also another type of inflammatory arthritis that develops from the skin condition psoriasis and can cause swelling at the fingers and toes.

If you are experiencing stiffness, swelling, tenderness, or fatigue in your joints, you may have arthritis. Osteoarthritis is caused by the wear and tear of an injury or genetics, and the former is one of the main reasons which is why it is mainly seen in older people. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease and the exact cause of the immune system attack on the joints is unknown.

It is important to keep those joints moving if you are experiencing any symptoms from arthritis. Physical therapy can be a big help in managing and controlling the symptoms and chronic pain associated with arthritis. A physical therapist can provide a thorough examination of your arthritis and he or she can develop a personalized plan to work out your stiff joints and increase your range of motion without causing any further damage. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms above, it is strongly advised you make an appointment with a physical therapist so you can get back to your normal, everyday activities without being in pain.

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