Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic inflammatory disorder that primarily affects the joints. Unlike osteoarthritis, which is the result of wear-and-tear to the joints, rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease, where the body mistakenly attacks its own tissue, thereby affecting the lining of your joints and causes painful inflammation. This can ultimately can result in bone erosion/joint deformity. Over time, the inflammation associated with rheumatoid arthritis spreads from smaller joints to larger joints, and it can spread into other body systems, such as skin, eyes, lungs, and heart. Although rheumatoid arthritis can spread to other body systems, according to the Mayo Clinic, this occurs in roughly 40% of cases, with the other 60% of cases being affected only at the joints.
Rheumatoid arthritis occurs when the immune system attacks the lining of your joints. Inflammation occurs, which can deteriorate the cartilage and bone within the joint. The tendons and ligaments are also affected, and they become weakened. The result is painful, swollen joints, that can progressively lose shape and alignment. The disease process includes “flare-ups” followed by moments of remission. The progression of the disease varies by individual, some being able to live their whole life with complete management of symptoms, while others will have physical impairments following the progression of the disease.
Upon consulting with your physician, they will likely recommend medication to help control the symptoms. Your physician will likely also recommend consulting with a nutritionist and prescribe physical and/or occupational therapy. When you are in pain and fatigued, exercise may be the last thing on your mind, but research has shown that physical/occupational therapy in conjunction with medication treatment significantly helps restore muscle strength and joint function to promote improved functionality. As the disease progresses, and as new joints are affected, therapy can assist in managing those symptoms as well.
Why would I need both Physical and Occupational Therapy?
- Physical therapy will work with your symptoms to prescribe appropriate exercises that are safe and effective to stimulate your muscles and joints. This will help you improve your overall strength, joint mobility, flexibility, range of motion, and activity tolerance. Progress with physical therapy will help you alleviate joint pain stemming from rheumatoid arthritis and control symptoms such as numbness and tingling, inflamed joints, decreased range of motion, morning stiffness, joint stiffness, and fatigue.
- Occupational therapy will assess your lifestyle and determine how to help you improve performing activities that mean the most to you. They will provide you with the tools and techniques to optimally perform your daily tasks, such as cooking, bathing, and dressing. They can help with the modification of your home environment to help you make adaptations where you may need.
A combined treatment between physical and occupational therapy will be an effective treatment for you when attempting to manage rheumatoid arthritis. There are also psychological benefits to exercise, and this will help improve your mood while coping with the symptoms of the arthritic disease process. Again, it must be noted that the range of symptoms vary and not all patients will have severe symptoms, but despite this, exercise is a great way to help manage both the physical and psychological components that come with the disease process.
Should you be newly diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, or have been living with this arthritic condition for years, Virtual Therapy Partners, LLC is here to help. We have a team of therapists equipped to design a personalized treatment plan for you, and we will help you get started on the road to the effective management of rheumatoid arthritis. With the option of an in-home assessment as well as telehealth therapy, you have the ability to fight rheumatoid arthritis from the comfort of your home, and you will have a treatment plan catered to your exact home environment. With the flexibility of Virtual Therapy Partners, you can schedule appointments as needed with one of our licensed therapists, to help you best manage and cope on those days where flare-ups may occur. Should you be unsure of what is best for you, feel free to give us a call to discuss your arthritic condition.
Sources: Mayo Clinic, Rheumatoid Arthritis Foundation, Arthritis Foundation