Physical therapy is often part of treatment for arthritis and other joint problems. A physical therapist individualizes your treatment program to restore or maintain your physical functioning and carries out specific instructions from your orthopedist.
First, the therapist thoroughly evaluates your pain, functional ability, strength, and endurance. A physical therapy session may involve pain-relieving treatments using ice, heat, massage, or other approaches. The physical therapist supervises you in doing exercises and teaches you exercises you can do at home. Depending on the therapy center, there may be a pool and a variety of exercise equipment to use.
Gait retraining – Knee and hip problems can disrupt your normal walk by causing pain, restricting joint movement, or weakening muscles. A person’s usual pattern of standing, walking, or running may also invite joint problems if weakness in key muscles, poor coaching advice, or bad habits throw off the gait.
It may take many years of walking with an abnormal gait before joint injury occurs. Improper running leads to pain and injury more rapidly because it involves greater force with each stride.
A physical therapist analyzes your gait and helps you learn to walk more normally. Initially, the proper gait may feel odd; you will most likely need practice and continued instruction before it becomes comfortable. The physical therapist may suggest a change in shoes or specific exercises to strengthen muscles you may be trying to avoid using.
If you have had a knee or hip replacement, gait retraining helps you relearn to stand up straight (the tendency is to lean toward your operated leg) and use both legs evenly. Gait retraining may begin in the pool, where the water’s buoyancy takes weight off the joint, makes it easier to stand up straight.
Exercise in the water has special benefits:
The water supports your weight, reducing stress on your joints.You can try out exercises before doing them on solid ground.An 85° F pool is comfortable for exercise and soothes joints.You can increase range of motion and endurance without strenuous effort or joint pain.