Steve Bailey is a physical therapist and the owner of Prompt Physical Therapy in Knoxville, Tennessee. A practicing physical therapist for 18 years, he holds...
Physical therapy can help restore knee function and ease pain caused by osteoarthritis.
It helps to understand what's happening in the knee joints affected by arthritis: They may not move
properly, and there's also excessive stress on the cartilage. The normal function of the cartilage is to distribute the load on the joint over as large an area as possible, allowing motion between two sides of the joints with as little friction and wear as possible. This movement is important to the health of the cartilage; because it has no blood supply, it relies on movement to stimulate special cells called chondroblasts, which produce collagen that "feeds" the cartilage.
Manipulation of the soft tissue and joint can improve the movement of the joints while also better feeding the cartilage. This is done through manual physical therapy, which is hands-on bodywork.
With arthritis in the knee, the functioning of the foot can also be affected. Simple solutions include shoe inserts known as medial heel wedges, which reduce the load to the medial area of the knee. Bracing is another way to do this.
Exercise also plays a key role in regenerating the cartilage in the knee. These often start with non-weight-bearing exercises and increase to greater weight-bearing exercises as tolerance improves. A physical therapist can monitor changes in the cartilage and adjust the amount, type, and repetitions of exercise to improve the joint without swelling or loss of range of motion.
Whether the arthritis is in the knees, hands, back, or elsewhere, the type of training a physical therapist has can make a difference in the outcome. It's helpful to seek someone who specializes in manual physical therapy, which is hands-on bodywork.