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Physical Therapy for Arthritis: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments

 Physical Therapy for Arthritis

Living with arthritis can be a nightmare—pain and stiffness prevent you from opening the jelly jar in the morning, or your knees burn as you climb the stairs for bed each night. Fortunately, Physical therapy for arthritis relieves symptoms and slows disease progression. The physical therapist works to alleviate aching, stiff joints through manual therapy, targeted exercises, hot and cold therapy, and massage.

How effective is physical therapy for arthritis pain?

Physical therapy is highly effective in relieving pain and stiffness associated with arthritis. In a study published in the Physical Therapy & Rehabilitation Journal, patients who received clinical treatment improved twice as much as those who did home exercise.

Arthritis Types and Causes

Arthritis refers to a couple of different conditions characterized by joint pain and range of motion difficulty. While the symptoms are similar, the causes differ. For example, Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder that causes painful swelling that often feels worse in the morning or after rest. On the other hand, osteoarthritis comes from the wear and tear of the cartilage lining the joints and irritation of soft joint tissue. Different types of arthritis require individual treatment plans. A PT can help identify and alleviate the causes of pain based on the patients’ needs. 

Symptoms of Arthritis 

Arthritis can occur in many joints from the shoulders to the feet. Osteoarthritis most commonly affects weight-bearing joints in the knees and hips. In comparison, rheumatoid arthritis starts in the fingers and toes and migrates to larger joints such as ankles, knees, elbows, and hips. Moderate to severe arthritis can impair your ability to complete activities of daily living such as bathing, cooking, and walking. Early signs and symptoms include:

  • Pain
  • Stiffness
  • Swelling
  • Redness
  • Reduced range of motion

Arthritis Treatments

Stretching, massage, and physical therapy are the least invasive treatments for arthritis. Other interventions include medication such as anti-inflammatories, steroids, and/or immunosuppressives for rheumatoid. Extremely severe cases of each type may require joint replacement surgery. Physical therapy is often the preferred treatment for arthritis because it is most effective and least invasive in the early stages of the disease. 

Physical Therapy for Arthritis 

The most significant benefit of working with a physical therapist is individualized treatment plans. Medications treat all pain the same—they treat  the symptoms rather than treating the cause. In contrast, physical therapy has the tools to provide targeted solutions to each individual’s pain. Manual therapy, hot and cold therapy, and therapeutic massage can dramatically improve the range of motion for most arthritis patients. 

Getting Help for Arthritis Pain

Is chronic joint pain impacting your life? It’s time to talk to a PT about tailored treatment options. If you need physical therapy for arthritis, schedule an appointment with one of our expert therapists today. 

Increased Time Spent in Physical Therapy Improves Outcomes

Time Spent in Physical Therapy

The amount of time patients spend with their Physical Therapist makes a huge difference when it comes to healing. Increased time spent in physical therapy sessions correlates with improved recovery rates. Patients have better outcomes when the PT gives time and attention to provide quality care and education. Rehabilitation outcomes and patient satisfaction increase when patients spend more time with their PT.

How Long Should Physical Therapy Last?

Physical Therapy lasts as long as it takes to reach individual recovery goals. Each case is different, and the amount of PT will depend on the patient’s needs and rate of healing. Factors such as overall time spent in therapy and adherence to home education speed recovery.

Impact on Rehabilitation 

Patients need to spend a lot of time in physical therapy when recovering from injury or surgery. The more time, the better. There is a positive correlation between total therapy time and regaining functional independence. According to a 2021 retrospective study, each additional hour of physical therapy was associated with “an increase of 7.55 functional independence measure (FIM) point gain.” All in all, more time spent in treatment produced improved rehabilitation outcomes. 

Patient Satisfaction

High-quality interactions with the PT improve patient satisfaction. The patient gets the most out of each session when the therapist takes time to explain, instruct, and educate thoroughly. Cost-cutting measures, high patient volume, and care extenders take time away from direct contact with the therapist. A survey published in the Physical Therapy & Rehabilitation Journal found a strong correlation between patient satisfaction and quality interactions with the physical therapist, including spending time with the patient, strong listening skills, and clear explanations of treatment. 

Time Spent in Physical Therapy 

At Churchill Orthopedic Rehabilitation, we spend time getting to know each patient’s needs. Our highly-skilled PTs give each person time and attention. We know that time spent in physical therapy is essential for rehabilitation outcomes and patient satisfaction. Call us at 201-833-1333 to refer patients for treatment.

The Benefits of Manual Therapy for Patients

Benefits of Manual Therapy

Physical therapists employ many hands-on techniques to diagnose and treat musculoskeletal symptoms. Benefits of manual therapy include pain reduction and improved range of motion. Manual therapists use their hands to detect subtle changes in a patient’s muscles and joints to evaluate the causes and pain and restricted movement. This intimate approach allows for treatment tailored to each patient. The personalized methods underlying direct manipulation are designed to meet specific needs.

Is manual therapy effective?

The efficacy of manual therapy is well established for many musculoskeletal issues. However, effectiveness varies based on the type of manipulation and which condition it’s treating. Overall, manual therapy is effective at managing pain and mobility. These hands-on techniques work best when integrated as part of a comprehensive treatment plan.

Benefits of Manual Therapy

The direct, hands-on treatment provides many advantages for patients suffering from musculoskeletal restrictions. Manual therapy reduces pain and improves mobility. It applies to various conditions, and the diversity of treatments is adaptable to meet patients’ individual needs. 

Improved Mobility and Reduced

After injury or surgery, many patients have difficulty walking, bending, and reaching. Manual techniques can improve range of motion and mobility. The physical therapist carefully examines the patient’s gait, movement patterns, restrictions, and compensatory movement. A combination of hands-on techniques and mobility exercises helps patients return to normal functioning. Manual therapy helps patients move without pain and discomfort. Soft tissue techniques improve blood flow and relieve tension. And passive mobilization reduces pain and swelling around joints. 

Diverse Applications

A significant benefit of manual therapy is the variety of different problems it can help with. Physicians may refer patients to a physical therapist for many joint and muscle conditions. Manual therapists can help drain lymph nodes, reduce edema, and stretch joints. Manual therapy can be an effective treatment for:

Adaptable and Personalized Treatment

The various techniques employed by manual therapists let them target specific problems. Soft tissue mobilization breaks adhesions in the muscles, ligaments, and fascia. These techniques lengthen muscles and tendons, reduce edema, and restore range of motion. Joint mobilization techniques use passive movement to reduce pain and improve mobility. Therapists slowly move joints based on the patient’s condition and pain tolerance. 

Manual Therapy at COR

Manual therapy is a huge part of what we do here at Churchill Orthopedic Rehabilitation. Our skilled practitioners use their hands to help patients return to pain-free function and improve their quality of life. We offer massage therapy, spinal care, joint rehabilitation, pelvic floor treatments, and many more options that help patients reduce pain and regain their lives. Call us at 201-833-1333 to talk about your patients needs.

Experiencing Pelvic Pain? Try Pelvic Floor Physical Therapy

pelvic floor physical therapy

Despite all the tests and scans, many women can’t pinpoint the cause of their pelvic pain. Sometimes it’s misdiagnosed as various gynecological conditions or dismissed as “unexplained pain.” Problems with the pelvic floor muscles, called myofascial pelvic pain, are associated with around 20% of chronic pelvic pain and more than 75% of bladder pain syndrome. Unfortunately, this cause often goes unidentified. Gynecologists often focus on organs, not muscles when diagnosing pelvic issues. Physical therapists can help address the underlying problems using pelvic floor physical therapy.

What is the pelvic floor?

The pelvic floor is a set of muscles that run from the pubic bone to the tailbone. This “hammock” supports the bladder, bowel, rectum, and uterus. These muscles are essential to elimination control and sexual functioning.

What is Pelvic Floor Physical Therapy?

Throughout the lifespan, women can experience pelvic floor dysfunction in the form of symptoms such as urgency, frequency, leaking/incontinence, sexual symptoms such as pain with sex, thinning of vaginal tissue during and post menopause, and bowel symptoms such as constipation, urgency, rectal pain, and incontinence. The musculoskeletal components of these dysfunctions can be addressed by a pelvic health PT specialist.

If you are experiencing pelvic pain, a specially trained PT can design individualized treatment for myofascial pelvic pain. The therapy involves internal and external manipulation of the pelvic floor muscle. While some women may find these methods awkward, a well-trained PT creates a trusting rapport and relaxing atmosphere to help clients feel at ease. 

What to Expect

The first step is learning about the client’s history. The PT and client will have a conversation about medical issues, medications, and sexual/gynecological history. Next, the PT will do an orthopedic evaluation to look at the lumbar, hips, gait, and posture to look for joint issues that could impact the pelvic muscles. An internal pelvic exam can also help determine the best course of action. However, PTs are always sensitive to individual needs and won’t start internal techniques until the client is ready. Each treatment plan is designed to meet the client’s specific goals, such as reconditioning the muscles, improving sexual function, and alleviating pain. Treatments may include:

  • Manual internal and external manipulation
  • Exercises for conditioning, stretching, and relaxation
  • Biofeedback for muscle strengthening 
  • Education in self-management
  • Ice, heat, or electrical stimulation

When to Ask for Help

Chronic pelvic pain is when discomfort below the navel and between the hips persists for six months or longer. The pain may be severe or dull, steady or intermittent. Women may experience sharp cramps or deep pressure. Other times, women have pain during intercourse, while using the toilet, or after sitting or standing for a long time. It may be challenging to know when to seek medical attention. Contact your doctor if the pain lasts six months or longer, disrupts daily life or seems to be getting worse. A medical professional can help diagnose the problem and work with the patient to develop treatments, including medications and pelvic floor physical therapy. 

Pelvic Floor Physical Therapy at COR

At Churchill Orthopedic Rehabilitation, we care strongly about women’s health conditions. Our doctorate-level female PTs are here to help with issues such as diastasis recti, urinary incontinence and urgency, pregnancy, post-partum, c-section scar restrictions, and painful penetration. If you are suffering from chronic pelvic floor pain or any other women’s health condition, schedule an appointment online today. 

Drug-free Relief for Chronic Pain: Physical Therapy as an Alternative to Opioids

Physical Therapy as an Alternative to Opioids

No one wants to put their health at risk from the medical side effects of prescription pain pills. That’s why so many physicians recommend physical therapy as an alternative to opioids. Healthcare providers want to help patients manage pain without relying on habit-forming drugs. PT is a low-risk, minimally-invasive way to handle a variety of pain. A physical therapist treats pain through hands-on manipulation, education, and physical activity.

What are CDC recommendations for pain management?

Centers for Disease Control recommends primary care providers maximize non-opioid treatments for chronic pain. Before starting drug treatments, consider alternatives such as physical therapy. When prescribing pain killers, use the lowest possible effective dosage and closely monitor patients for side-effects.

Avoiding Opioids for Chronic Pain

Opioids have long been accepted for their role in acute and terminal pain. However, their use in treating chronic pain is controversial. The opioid epidemic has revealed the dangers of masking long-term pain with drugs rather than treating the deeper cause. Therapists work with clients to the root out of the underlying problems. Using physical therapy as an alternative to opioids is a long-term solution for managing chronic pain. 

Side Effects of Opioids 

Opioids have dangerous side effects such as addiction, depression, overdose, and withdrawal. Other common side-effects are:

  • Sleepiness
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea 
  • Vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Physical dependence
  • Respiratory problems

The only “side effects” of physical therapy are improved mobility and a reduction in health problems. PT may reduce the need for more invasive procedures, or it can support post-operative recovery when surgery is warranted.

Benefits of Physical Therapy as an Alternative to Opioids 

Physical Therapy improves the overall quality of life for patients. Sessions help get to the root cause of the pain, rather than masking it with medication. Therapists can identify and treat a variety of health concerns beyond the initial presentation or pain. Patients tend to see better results because they are active participants in their recovery process. 

Referring for Physical Therapy as an Alternative to Opioids 

When patients present with chronic or post-surgical mobility issues, physicians may decide to temporarily prescribe medication to get the pain under control initially. Quickly referring to physical therapy gets individuals off pain meds quickly before addition and adverse side effects set in. To refer a patient for pain management, call our office at 201-833-1333.

How to Avoid Surgery with Non-operative Rehabilitation

Non-operative Rehabilitation

Torn ligaments and injured joints can render a person immobile. Non-operative rehabilitation is a non-invasive way to return you to daily activities safely. Physical therapy will guide you through progressive steps designed to strengthen the affected area and return to normal functioning over time. Rehabilitation typically happens in three phases. Therapists will personalize each program depending on the patient’s needs and activity goals.

What activities should I avoid after tearing a ligament?

Following a sprain, which is a tearing of some of the fibers in a ligament, you want to avoid anything that overextends the affected joint. For torn knee ligaments, pain-free ROM and isometric strengthening is the first order as guided by your therapist. You don’t want to start more vigorous exercises too early on in the rehabilitation process, or re-injury may occur.

Phase One – Increase Protection and Decrease Pain

The first four to six weeks are designed to protect the affected area and decrease pain and swelling. The first phase requires multiple therapy sessions per week. Many clients require the use of a brace and/or crutches. Therapists will educate you on how to use assistive devices and will begin manual manipulation to increase mobility. You will also start light exercises such as hip activation, ankle pumps, and isometrics.

Phase Two – Regain Strength and Mobility

You will most likely begin to wean off the crutches in this phase. Your therapist will continue hands-on manipulation for mobility support. You will introduce new exercises such as lunges, squats, and leg presses to build strength and flexibility. Riding a stationary bike is another way to workout injured knees. Phase two aims to return to a full range of motion and improve stability and gait. 

Phase Three – Ease Back to Normal Function

Typically, it’s safe to stop using the brace after about 12 weeks of non-operative rehabilitation. Your physical therapist will direct the adding of resistance to your leg presses and guide progression to more advanced lunges and squats. In phase three, we aim to return to full functioning and meet your doctor’s clearance criteria. 

Getting Back in the Game after Non-Operative Rehabilitation

Your physician will tell you when you’ve met clearance criteria to return to functional activities. When returning to sports drills, always listen to your body. Pain and resistance are signs that your knees are not quite ready. Avoid pushing hard too soon. Over-exertion can cause re-injury. Returning to training or work takes more than physical healing. There is a psychological element to recovering from injury as well. You need to be able to trust the injured part. Physical therapy takes a holistic approach to helping you get back in the game. 

Non-operative Rehabilitation in Bergen County New Jersey

Churchill Orthopedic Rehabilitation offers rehabilitation options without surgery for torn ACL, PCL, and MCL. Our highly-trained physical therapists will work with you to design a program that meets your personal recovery goals. Schedule a consultation today.

Cold Laser Therapy to Treat Pain: Can Exposure to Red Light Promote Healing?

Cold Laser Therapy to treat pain

Cold laser therapy to treat pain is a rapidly growing technology used to reduce inflammation and pain. The red light activates the body’s response to increasing tissue repair, healing, and relief. The low-levels of light are not enough to heat body tissue or cause skin damage. When used correctly, this non-invasive, natural treatment is free from damaging side effects. Other names for this process include low-level laser therapy (LLLT), low-power laser therapy (LPLT), and soft laser biostimulation.

What’s the Science Behind Cold Laser Therapy?

Cold or low-level laser therapy treats pain and inflammation through skin exposure to red and near-infrared light. The long wavelengths stimulate pigment molecules in the mitochondria of skin cells to produce chemicals the body needs for healing and repair.

Uses for Cold Laser Therapy to Treat Pain

LLLT is approved by the FDA for several conditions, from acne to autoimmune disorders. In physical therapy and rehabilitation, it helps alleviate the chronic pain of carpal tunnel syndrome and arthritis. It also reduces pain and swelling for minor injuries such as:

  • Sprains
  • Strains
  • Tendinitis
  • Tennis elbow
  • Neck and back pain
  • Knee and joint pain

Pros and Cons of Cold Laser Therapy

Soft lasers are safe and effective when used by a qualified practitioner. The process is quick and non-invasive. The procedure takes a few minutes, and all the patient feels is the device on their skin—there is no heat or pain.

On the downside, most patients require multiple sessions per week, and it may take several weeks before you feel the full effects. Some insurers may not cover laser treatments. Fortunately, the staff at Churchill Orthopedic Rehabilitation will provide the best care possible regardless of insurance.

When to Avoid Cold Laser Therapy

While there are no known side-effects in healthy patients, there are times when LLLT is not advisable. For example, avoid using it directly over malignant tumors except for pain relief in terminal cases. You also don’t want to use cold laser therapy over tattoos or thyroids. The effects have not been tested on unborn children, so women should avoid this treatment while pregnant.

When to Refer for Cold Laser Therapy

When patients experience pain, start with the least-invasive options. Consider referring patients for cold laser therapy to treat pain before moving to shots or surgery.  Laser therapy is also good for weaning patients off pain medications. If you are interested in learning more about our low-level laser treatment options, give us a call at 201-833-1333.

Regaining Mobility: Joint Replacement Rehabilitation for Knee, Hip, and Shoulder

Joint Replacement Rehabilitation

Surgical joint replacement is a last resort to heal chronic pain and mobility issues after non-surgical treatments proved unsuccessful. It takes severe pre- and post-surgery joint replacement rehabilitation to restore your quality of life. Getting moving again is a crucial part of recovery. Physical therapy helps bring back your mobility and range of motion following joint replacement. 

What are the joint replacement surgery risks?

Joint replacement has the same risks as other surgeries such as infection and blood clot. More likely problems are stiffness, swelling, and range-of-motion issues. Active rehabilitation before and after surgery can reduce some risks.

Pre-operative Physical Therapy 

Completing pre-surgery exercises prepares the body for the upcoming operation and leads to shorter recovery times. A PT can determine advanced exercises for strength, endurance, flexibility, and balance. Support your joint by strengthening the surrounding muscles. Endurance training helps your body recuperate faster. Improved balance keeps you steady on your feet and reduces falls. 

Training your body is just part of the preparations. A skilled physical therapist can also provide education for the patient on what to expect following surgery. Your PT can teach you how to use assistive devices such as walkers and crutches and how to prepare your home to help you live as independently as possible. Recovery is safer and faster when you prepare ahead of time. 

Post-operative Joint Replacement Rehabilitation 

The physical therapist at the hospital will get the rehabilitation process started. At first, you’ll learn how to get out of bed and chairs safely. During the initial days following surgery, your physical therapy needs will focus on reducing pain and swelling. Your PT can show you how to use ice, compression, and elevation to control swelling around the affected joint. 

When you can move freely without pain, your physical therapy program can focus on returning to full function. Depending on the joint—knee, hip, or shoulder—your PT will design a specific recovery program including strength, balance, and mobility exercises. You will start range-of-motion exercises right off the bat. These restore movement to the joint so that you can perform activities of daily living. Still, you may need to use a cane or other assistive device for a while.

Joint Replacement Rehabilitation at COR

When you are recovering from joint replacement, the experienced physical therapists at Churchill Orthopedic Rehabilitation can provide techniques to reduce swelling and maximize comfort. Schedule a consultation to talk about your joint replacement rehabilitation needs.