Skip to content
    Select An Article

    How Physical and Occupational Therapy Help for RA

    Font Size
    A
    A
    A

    Because you have rheumatoid arthritis, you'd probably benefit a lot from physical therapy and occupational therapy. It’s often part of the RA treatment plan.

    Healthy joints are the "hinges" that let you move around. Many of us take that for granted. These simple movements aren't always automatic or easy when you have RA, though. They can be painful.

    The goals and treatments used by physical therapists and occupational therapists sometimes overlap, but there are some general differences.

    Physical Therapy for Rheumatoid Arthritis

    The goal of it is to keep you moving. It uses exercise and other methods to stimulate muscles, bones, and joints. The result is more strength, tone, and overall fitness.

    Physical therapists understand the mechanics of bones, joints, and muscles working together, the problems that can happen, and what to do about them. It’s a good idea to work with a therapist, whether you’ve had RA for a long time, you’re newly diagnosed, and no matter how severe it is.

    In the early stages of the disease, your physical therapist can check on your strength, fitness, and how well your joints work. She'll make an exercise plan to keep your joints as healthy as possible.

    If you have moderate or advanced rheumatoid arthritis, physical therapy can help you keep or improve your strength and flexibility.

    Together, you’ll make a plan for each muscle and joint group, and for your overall fitness. It will probably include:

    Exercise. This is the cornerstone of any physical therapy plan. It will match your ability and fitness level, and include flexibility, strength, and cardio (aerobic exercise).

    Heat or ice. Treating inflamed or painful joints with heat or ice packs helps some people feel better.

    Massage. It can also help you feel better.

    Motivation and encouragement. It’s a big plus to have a pro to cheer you on and push you to keep going.

    Occupational Therapy for Rheumatoid Arthritis

    This helps you stay independent. A therapist will check to see what you need help with. Then, he can teach you better or easier ways to accomplish those things.

    If activities like dressing, cooking, or bathing become hard or painful, occupational therapists can recommend or provide solutions. Assistive devices are products or improvements that make common tasks easier.

    WebMD Medical Reference

    Reviewed by David Zelman, MD on June 15, 2015
    Next Article:

    Today on WebMD

    rubbing hands
    Avoid these 6 common mistakes.
    mature couple exercising
    Decrease pain, increase energy.
     
    mature woman threading needle
    How much do you know?
    hands
    Swelling, fatigue, pain, and more.
     
    Lucille Ball
    Slideshow
    Hand bones X-ray
    Article
     
    prescription pills
    Article
    Woman massaging her neck
    Quiz
     
    woman roasting vegetables in oven
    Slideshow
    Woman rubbing shoulder
    Slideshow
     
    doctor and patient hand examination
    Video
    arthritis
    Article