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A common dilemma faced by those with persistent arthritis pain is whether or not to continue activity. As joint problems become worse, pain during or after activity is a common reason people become less active.
However, less activity leads to loss of muscle strength and endurance. Long-term stationary positions like sitting and lying can lead to loss of joint motion. That’s why it’s important to stay as active as you can.
Seeing a physical therapist is a non-surgical option for managing arthritis pain and can help you stay active. Physical therapists assess flexibility and joint range of motion, as well as muscle strength, balance and coordination
After assessing you, your physical therapist will compile a treatment plan which should include supervised exercises in a clinic and a home exercise program. They may also offer a variety of passive treatments, such as acupuncture, ultrasound, or transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS). These may help with pain or flare-ups, but should not comprise the entire treatment plan. Your physical therapist can answer questions about your arthritis and suggest reasonable types of activity for you.
Physical therapy and exercise programs help strengthen muscles around the joint and improve flexibility. People who exercise regularly will typically have less pain and better function than those that do not.
Alberta Health Services (AHS) Allied Health – Edmonton Zone provides physical therapy services through a network of contracted private clinics and public facilities.
Alongside your physical therapist, you can develop a plan to maximize your physical function, whether you need surgery for a joint replacement or are managing your joint without surgery. After joint replacement surgery, these clinics will provide an assessment and six treatments.
Different zones in the province may have different access to community physical therapy and different policies regarding funding of these visits. Smaller centres or rural regions may provide these services through the hospital, while larger areas may have a selection of clinics to choose from. Some people have access to physical therapy funding through work benefits or privately purchased plans. You should investigate to determine whether you have any funding outside of the AHS allotted visits.
There are many different kinds of braces for knees. Braces work most effectively when you plan to be on your feet (as in standing or walking).
Knee sleeves slide over the knee and provide compression around the knee joint. This helps control swelling and improves feedback to your brain about the position of the joint (proprioception), and thus may help manage discomfort and stiffness. Knee sleeves are low profile and can be worn under pants. They are less expensive than many hinged braces and can be purchased at pharmacies or health supply stores.
Hinged braces can provide stability for the knee, and some can unload stress from one part of the knee to a better functioning area. Many of these braces are customized and can be bulky and costly. It is best to ask your surgeon or team whether these would be appropriate for you. You will require a prescription for a customized brace.
Please refer to the Arthritis Society website or the Alberta Rheumatology website for further information on medications used to treat arthritis.