Can physical therapy help arthritis pain?

4 answers | Last updated: Oct 19, 2016
A fellow caregiver asked...

Will physical therapy help with arthritis pain? My mom has osteoarthritis and has instructions from her doctor about exercising and what to eat, but could physical therapy help her with arthritis pain? Are there physical therapists who specialize in alleviating arthritis pain?

Expert Answers

Laura Cheney, a physical therapist who specializes in geriatrics, graduated with honors from the University of California at San Francisco in 2000. She loves her job working as the sole physical therapist at a premier life-care facility in San Francisco. She has written articles and lectured extensively on fall prevention and other issues relevant to the aging experience. As a registered yoga teacher, she teaches yoga, meditation, and other mindfulness techniques to seniors -- helping them expand their repertoire for coping with stress, pain, and illness in the later years.

Yes! Yes! Yes! There is a lot that physical therapists can do to help alleviate and prevent exacerbation of pain from arthritis. In fact, as a geriatric physical therapist, this is one of the most common diagnoses that we see. I would highly recommend that your mother seek the advice of a physical therapist who specializes in geriatrics. First, they can suggest a myriad of devices that can make life a lot easier for your mom. Depending on where she is effected by her arthritis--there are braces, modified eating utensils, writing utensils, pillows, kitchen utensils etc. that can allow her to continue her normal daily activities with minimal pain. They can prescribe and help progress exercises that are specific to her needs--and make sure she is doing them safely and correctly. And they can teach her how to modify a lot of her daily activities--such as how to get out of bed, or get up from a chair-- to help minimize the pain. Arthritis is damage that has already been done to the effected joint--the effect of wear and tear over time. This damage cannot be reversed but if you understand how to lessen the stress and strain on your joints you can lessen the pain and prolong the health and longevity of your joints! I hope your mom is able to find the help she needs. There is so much out there!

Community Answers

Peterpan56 answered...

Physical therapy is one of the best things you can do for any type of arthritis. Strengthening the support muscles around effected joints takes the stress off of the joints.

Adding to this warm water exercise can be a bonus especially for ankles, knees and hips. Exercise is an important part of treating arthritis.

Rusty Editor of

The caregiver's voice answered...

I remember vividly, the pain my mother felt in her shoulders and fingers because she labored physically in the garden - landscaping and even moving rocks by hand. She'd say in Armenian: My hands are trembling...they're numb. Then her shoulder would hurt in agonizing pain.

I sit at this computer when I'm not traveling and I think it's taken a similar toll on my fingers, wrists, and shoulders.

Despite eating healthy and even training (through the pain) to run in the March 2011 Los Angeles Marathon (26.2 miles), arthritis is a constant companion.

I began seeing an acupuncturist and am amazed how her work is eliminating the stinging pain I'd feel in my joints. She mentioned yesterday that she practices the Chinese form of acupuncture which gets at the nerve; whereas the Korean style is more gentle. It hasn't reduced the swelling but the lack of pain allows me to move my thumbs without pain. Whatever it is, IT WORKS for ME!

Scottybeammeup answered...

I Know a gentleman who's wife was in a wheel chair at 45 years old because of arthritis. She and her husband went vegetarian and 3 years later she was out of her wheel chair and no arthritis.

I can also help if you are open to alternative ideas instead of just the standard medical treatments. I know about a product that within 3 months of taking it this person no longer has arthritis and her energy is amazing. There were other health benefits she received also. All it is, is concentrated whole foods which is what some doctors use to treat people for health conditions.

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I hope this helps.