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Physical and Occupational Therapy for Arthritis


What Therapy Is Offered for People Recovering From Joint Replacement?

Preoperative programs of education and exercise, started before joint replacement surgery, are continued at home. They may be changed in the hospital after surgery to fit new needs during the rehabilitation period. These exercises may be added to your usual exercise regimen, and you may find your ability to exercise has improved after surgery.

What Joint Protection Techniques Are Offered?

There are ways to reduce the stress on joints affected by arthritis while participating in daily activities. Some of these include:

  • Controlling your weight to avoid putting extra stress on weight-bearing joints such as the back, hips, knees, and feet.
  • Being aware of body position, using good posture to protect your back and the joints of your legs and feet. When possible, sit down to do a job instead of standing. Change position often since staying in one position for a long time tends to increase stiffness and pain.
  • Conserving energy by allowing for rest periods, both during the workday and during an activity.
  • Respecting pain. It is your body's way of telling you something is wrong. Don't try an activity that puts strain on joints that are already painful or stiff.

An occupational therapist can show you ways to do everyday tasks without worsening pain or causing joint damage. Some joint protection techniques include:

  • Using proper body mechanics for getting in and out of a car, chair or tub, as well as for lifting objects.
  • Using your strongest joints and muscles to reduce the stress on smaller joints. For example, carrying a purse or briefcase with a shoulder strap rather than with your hand.
  • Distributing pressure to minimize stress on any one joint. Lifting dishes with both palms rather than with your fingers and carrying heavy loads in your arms instead of with your hands.
  • If your hands are affected by arthritis, avoid tight gripping, pinching, squeezing, and twisting. Ways to accomplish the same tasks with alternate methods or tools can usually be found.

What Are Assistive Devices for Arthritis?

If you have arthritis, many assistive devices have been developed to make activities easier and less stressful for the joints and muscles. Your therapist can suggest devices that will be helpful for tasks you may find difficult at home or at work.

A few examples of helpful devices include a bath stool for use in the shower or tub, grab bars around the toilet or tub, and long-handled shoehorns or sock grippers. Your therapist can show you catalogs that have a wide variety of assistive devices.




WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by David Zelman, MD on March 18, 2013
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