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Rehabilitation for Arthritis and Osteoporosis

Senior Asian woman rubbing her hands in discomfort, suffering from arthritis in her hand while sitting on sofa at home.

May is a month with impact: buds blooming, sun shining, and birds chirping. May is also a time to focus on two health conditions that have major impact: arthritis and osteoporosis. Arthritis is the number one cause of disability, affects nearly 60 million adults, and there are over 100 different types of it. Approximately 10 million Americans have osteoporosis with nearly half of the those 50 and older at risk of breaking a bone; osteoporosis is responsible for two million broken bones per year. Like many chronic conditions, a healthy lifestyle with a nutritious diet and routine physical activity can help to prevent and manage these diseases. But for those who need more support, rehabilitation services like occupational therapy (OT) and physical therapy (PT) can provide hope and empowerment.

What are arthritis and osteoporosis?

Arthritis literally means “joint inflammation” and is the overarching term for joint pain or disease. It’s a common condition; people of all ages, genders, and backgrounds can have arthritis, although there are some types which typically show up later in life. Common symptoms of arthritis include pain, redness, heat, swelling in joints, and reduced range of motion. These symptoms can range from mild to intense and may not always be present. Severe arthritis can result in chronic pain and increase difficulty performing daily activities, including making  walking painful.

Osteoporosis is a bone disease that weakens the structure and strength of bones. It affects women and men of all races and ethnic groups and can occur at any age. The risk for developing osteoporosis does increase with age; for many women, the disease begins to develop a year or two before menopause. Certain medications can also raise the risk of developing osteoporosis. There are typically no symptoms until a bone breaks, so it’s called a “silent disease:” you can have it and not know about it. Fractures can happen in any bone, but usually they occur in  the hip, vertebrae, or wrist.

How can PT and OT help?

PT can be instrumental in improving joint function, reducing pain, and increasing mobility for individuals with arthritis and osteoporosis. One way PT achieves this is through targeted exercises tailored to the individual’s needs. For example, PT may incorporate resistance training using resistance bands or weights to enhance bone density and prevent further deterioration in individuals with osteoporosis. Manual therapy techniques such as soft tissue mobilization and joint mobilizations can alleviate pain and improve joint range of motion, enabling individuals to move more freely and comfortably.

OT complements PT by focusing on adapting daily activities to mitigate joint strain, alleviating the impact of arthritis and osteoporosis. For instance, occupational therapists might recommend a chair with lumbar support and an adjustable desk or adaptive equipment like a “grabber” to reduce the strain and stress on joints for individuals with arthritis. OT interventions could also include teaching joint protection techniques, like proper body mechanics, to prevent further damage and maintain independence in daily life.

The personalized strategies of PT and OT can empower individuals to manage their conditions effectively and enhance their overall well-being. Studies show that PT reduces pain by 40% and improves function by 30% for arthritis patients. Additionally, individuals with osteoporosis who engage in PT reduce their risk of fractures by up to 50%. There are tangible benefits of proactive rehabilitation interventions.

This May, we commemorate Arthritis Awareness Month and National Osteoporosis Month. We can also celebrate that PT and OT can help alleviate the challenges posed by both conditions, leading to a better quality of life.

Community Physical Therapy provides both physical and occupational therapies. Contact us to learn how we can support and empower you through arthritis or osteoporosis.