Physical Therapy and Occupational Therapy
You likely keep an eye out for the mention of a new medication, dietary supplement, or treatment that may relieve arthritis symptoms more effectively than whatever you're currently taking. Don't overlook other ways you can help manage the disease. Physical therapy and occupational therapy are two avenues that can also help control pain and maintain joint function.
If your doctor has not recommended physical therapy or occupational therapy to you, bring up the possibility and see if your doctor feels you could benefit from one or more sessions. In some states, a patient can self-refer to a physical therapist, while in other states a doctor's referral is required. As with any treatment, be sure you are familiar with how your insurance covers physical therapy evaluations and sessions.
Physical Therapy as Part of Arthritis Management
Generally, physical therapy focuses on an individual patient's physical and functional status. Mobility, posture, and body mechanics are carefully assessed by a physical therapist before recommendations are made. Therapeutic exercises are prescribed, which are chosen to improve strength and stamina.
It is important for you to be evaluated by a physical therapist before starting an exercise program. A therapist can assess your needs and modify exercises to suit you specifically. If you are exercising improperly, you can do more damage than if you were not exercising at all. The advice of a professional is valuable. The therapist may also recommend heat, cold, hydrotherapy, or electrical stimulation to be used before, during, or after exercise.
By assessing your physical limitations and increasing your activity level to what is tolerable for you, preserving your independence becomes another goal of physical therapy. Besides exercise to improve or preserve the range of motion of your joints, physical therapists can recommend mobility aids or adaptive equipment or recommend a consultation with an occupational therapist who works extensively with adaptive equipment.
Occupational Therapy as Part of Arthritis Management
An occupational therapist focuses on everyday tasks of daily living. Occupational therapy emphasizes joint protection techniques and proper body mechanics in terms of daily activities. Any movement should be done in ways that are optimal for minimizing stress on your joints. This includes getting in and out of a chair or bed, getting in and out of a car, getting on and off of the toilet, and lifting, bending, reaching, and gripping.
If your doctor hasn't recommended physical therapy or occupational therapy, should you assume it's unimportant?
Not necessarily. When you see your doctor, time is limited. Your doctor bases decisions and recommendations on his findings as well as what you disclose. If arthritis is affecting your daily activities, tell your doctor.
Occupational therapists focus on improving your ability to perform daily activities, and also help you adapt when functional ability is impaired. An occupational therapist will assess your home and work environment to be sure they are helping you maintain your ability to function in those settings.
Occupational therapists, as well as physical therapists, are licensed professionals who are an integral part of a patient's healthcare team. They are trained to assess and evaluate a patient's individual abilities through interview, observation, and formal assessment for the purpose of setting goals and tracking progress.