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Physical Therapy for Rheumatoid Arthritis - Topic Overview

The purpose of physical therapy is to reduce pain and allow you to continue daily activities. Physical therapy can reduce pain in the soft tissues (such as the muscles, ligaments, and tendons), improve function, and build muscle strength. A physical therapist provides these treatments and will also provide education, instruction, and support for recovery.

Physical therapy techniques for rheumatoid arthritis may include:

  • Stretching, to increase flexibility and reduce stress on joints.
  • Education, to help you improve and maintain your posture.
  • Exercise, to strengthen muscles.
  • Manual therapy, including massage, to improve or maintain range of motion.
  • Heat therapy, to improve blood circulation to the muscles and other soft tissues.
  • Ice therapy, to reduce swelling and relieve pain.
  • Cycling and limited walking, to promote good physical conditioning.
  • Water exercises, to allow your body to exercise without pressure on the spine.

Your doctor or physical therapist or both will design a program specific to your normal level of activity, physical fitness, severity of pain, and disease activity.

    This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http:// cancer .gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: June 05, 2012
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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