Does Physical Therapy Help Arthritis in the Back?
Arthritis in the back occurs when the joints in the spine become inflamed. This results from the deterioration of cartilage, a smooth elastic tissue that protects joints against weight-bearing stresses and provides lubrication required for normal joint function, and the eventual degeneration of a joint. Arthritis in the back also known as osteoarthritis, or OA, of the spine affects almost 27 million Americans.
Causes and Risk Factors
OA occurs due to gradual deterioration of cartilage around the lower back joints and a buildup of boney tissue to support the degenerated joint. It’s not exactly known why this deterioration occurs, but one thought is that the body builds the arthritis to support a joint that does not function well. Some risk factors for arthritis in the back include aging and congenital (cartilage) defects.
Many people who work jobs that place them at risk for repetitive stress injuries end up with arthritis in the back. Overweight people are also at increased risk for OA. People who have been in motor vehicle collisions, or have had work injuries, sports injuries, or any other trauma to the body and have not received any structural care are also at risk of OA.
The most common sign of OA of the spine is lower back pain. Back pain caused by osteoarthritis is worse when standing or sitting upright, and usually improves when lying down.
In the early stages of the disease, many patients experience excruciating pain in the mornings due to hours of inactivity. Some other signs of OA are:
- Joint tenderness and stiffness
- Muscle spasms and weakness (common among patients in the late stages of OA of the spine)
- Loss of normal joint flexibility, often characterized by trouble bending
- Decreased range of motion
Osteoarthritis is a progressive disease. OA symptoms usually get worse over time. Some people with osteoarthritis of the spine do not experience any symptoms.
If you have lower back pain and other symptoms of OA, your rehabilitation specialist who designs your physical therapy program with the chiropractor will ask you a number of questions regarding your general health. The professional will ask you to describe your symptoms, how they came about, and for how long you have been experiencing them.
Your rehabilitation specialist may also ask you to fill out a form designed to help them understand how pain affects different aspects of your life. They will also conduct a physical examination. Some common objectives of a physical examination are to:
- Evaluate your posture
- Check your balance
- Check nerve function with strength, reflex and sensation testing
- Assess spine movement
How Can Physical Therapy Help?
Many people with arthritis in the back turn to physical therapy in Burien to manage their condition. The chiropractor uses hands-on techniques or manual therapy, which involves applying gentle pressure to relax stiff muscles and joints, and improve spinal flexibility.
After your chiropractor has made a successful clinical diagnosis, they will use the information learned in the evaluation to design a pain management program.
An OA pain management program focuses on preventing pain, reducing the intensity of pain and the frequency of pain episodes, slowing the progression of the disease, and improving quality of life.
Here are some ways in which your rehabilitation specialist can help you.
They Will Recommend Exercises and Stretches
Your rehabilitation specialist will recommend exercises designed to strengthen and improve flexibility of the spine, abdomen, pelvic floor and hip muscles. These exercises will help improve your balance, and enable you to walk and stand safely (without falling).
Your rehabilitation specialist will also teach you stretching exercises for your spine. Combined with strengthening exercises, stretching exercises can help slow down the progression of arthritis in the back.
Help With Weight Loss
Overweight people are at increased risk of osteoarthritis. In people with OA, excess weight can make symptoms worse. Weight loss can help relieve OA symptoms and even prevent onset of OA. If you would like information to lose weight, your chiropractor or rehabilitation specialist will recommend the best exercises and nutritional changes for weight loss.
If they feel you need to make changes to your diet and eating habits, they may refer you to a nutritional expert.
They Will Teach You Ways to Manage Pain
Your chiropractor will help you identify pain triggers (such as stress, repetitive motions, and sudden drop in temperature) and teach you how to avoid them. They will teach you the correct way of applying fire and ice (fire and ice therapy) to relieve symptoms during a pain flare-up.
They Will Come Up with a Plan to Support Your Back
Want to give physical therapy in Burien a try? Look no further than Ascent Chiropractic. We use time-tested methods designed to help strengthen and stabilize the body so patients can participate in activities they enjoy, and lead healthier, more fulfilling lives. Our treatment plans focus on balancing the structure of the body. To learn more, call us at 206-241-3836.