“Uncle Arthur”, AKA Arthritis – Nothing can be done right? Wait a minute…
First off, I have the amazing opportunity to consult with people about the benefits of Physical Therapy for treating common ailments that most people deal with on a daily basis. I consider it a privilege and a social responsibility to tune in to conversations with people “off the clock” and to give helpful advice. Of course the conversation usually ends with “Here is our card, call us to schedule an appointment”. A frequent error in peoples understanding of their health ailments are that “there is nothing I can do about it.” This is commonly said when referring to arthritis, osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia, degenerative disc disease, degenerative joint disease, soft tissue/tendon/ligament damage, or other wear and tear issues. This is a big misconception and one that I dedicate a truck load of quality “soap box” time to.
Arthritis, degenerative joint disease, or cartilage wear and tear is common among the aging American Population. It is often remedied by pain pills, application of topical creams, vitamin supplements, braces, compression sleeves and other infomercial related “snake oil” sales. Most Degenerative “Disease” includes the following factors which can be reversible and treatable: muscle wasting and weakness, decrease movement in the joint, poor patterns of moving and poor postures.
Arthritis is the wearing of the joint surfaces or cartilage. Center for Disease Control definition and stats
Cartilage is a soft, smooth, slippery surface that is good at reducing friction. When it breaks down it can lead to pain and swelling of the joint. This in turn leads to chronic swelling, joint soft tissue thinning/Hypoxia (lack of oxygen), joint laxity and muscle weakness. These factors lead to further degeneration, reduced nourishing blood supply and cause a rapid increase in the rate of cartilage damage that is occurring. Movement compensations develop due to pain and decreased use. This often results in increased body weight and increased rate of injuring/degenerating other joints up or down then chain. (Inhale…) Remember that the baby boomer population is hitting it’s 50’s and 60’s so the statistics are naturally higher. Before I pick your spirits back up, here’s a case study.
So here is a scenario of 50-year-old man with Left Knee Pain. He is diagnosed with Osteoarthritis, meniscus tear, and pain that is described as dull/achy with occasional sharp/stabbing pain with certain movements. The knee is stiff and achy in the morning but feels better once he gets moving a little bit. After being on his feet, as the day progresses, the knee becomes more tender, swollen, and painful requiring him to sit frequently and limp slightly to reduce weight bearing. Often we find that the majority of the pain that this person is experiencing is not just from the joint arthritis, but also from the weakness, movement compensations, poor mechanics of the knee joint and patellofemoral joint (knee cap), and the chronic swelling which is causing compression/damage on surrounding soft tissues. Hip and Knee pain causes, relieving factors here
The Clinical Physical Therapist answer: Calm the swelling and soft tissue irritation initially, mobilize the patella (knee cap) and the surrounding soft tissue with manual therapy techniques, begin working end-range stability (the strength at the end of extending the knee straight), address the strength and coordination of the muscles of the pelvis and hip to ensure stability up the chain, and ensure proper flexibility of the hip/knee/ankle to allow normal joint mechanics of the entire lower extremity.
The real life answer: OWNERSHIP
Ownership means that this person must OWN this problem, and address it accordingly. This body is a God given vessel that we are blessed with and we must treat it as such. We have to stop passing the keys off to the healthcare system to inject, pill, or surgery our way through life. OWN your body, learn about it, love it, and treat it like the gift that it is.
The answer to Ownership: Education
Education is the only path to understanding how to maintain our bodies and health. Learning about our bodies unique needs is not an innate ability, nor is it something that is easily understood by doing Google Searches or Wikipedia. It is not an understanding that we are born with or that we learned in PE class in middle school. Physical Therapists (now Doctor of Physical Therapist) are trained to identify the unique qualities of your body, develop specific solutions, and provide education on how to improve your physical condition, reduce the pain and get back to doing the things you love.
NeoLife Physical Therapy and Wellness prides itself on engaging patients, understanding the unique qualities that affect them, developing trusting relationships, and education to manage health, activities, ergonomics, proper lifestyle modifications, and ultimately empowering patients to OWN their bodies! A good Physical Therapist should inspire life where it’s lacking! Hold yours to the highest standard possible and he/she will do the same for you. Or it’s time to find another one!