Physical Therapy for Rheumatoid Arthritis

Written by Stewart G. Eidelson, MD

Physical therapy is a non-surgical treatment for rheumatoid arthritis that can effectively relieve your inflammation and joint pain. These techniques will also help restore muscle, range of motion, and flexibility—equipping you with the necessary strength to combat future rheumatoid arthritis pain.
There are a variety of physical therapy techniques that may ease your rheumatoid arthritis symptoms. Passive treatments relax your body and include massage, heat and cold therapy, hydrotherapy, TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation), and ultrasound.

Your physical therapy program will usually begin with passive treatments. When you feel ready, you will start ctive treatments that strengthen your body and prevent further RA pain. Exercise is a vital part of your treatment, and your physical therapist will work with you to develop a plan catered just for you.

Passive Treatments

Active Treatments
Exercise is the cornerstone of any rheumatoid arthritis physical therapy program. Once you complete your course of passive treatments, your physical therapist will develop an active program specifically for you.Active treatments, which include regular exercise, help address flexibility, strength, and joint movement. This will not only curb recurrent pain but will also improve your overall health and help you lose weight, if necessary. Your physical therapist will work with you to develop a program based on your specific symptoms and health history.

Watch a slideshow of rheumatologist-approved exercises for rheumatoid arthritis.

Active treatments include:

Your physical therapist will teach you "self-care" principles so you understand how to best treat your rheumatoid arthritis pain. The ultimate goal is for you to develop the knowledge to help control your symptoms yourself, without the direct supervision of a physical therapist. It's essential that you learn the exercises and continue them after the formal therapy ends. If you keep with a fitness program, you have a much better chance of enjoying the long-term benefits of your physical therapy.

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