Advantages of Physical Therapy: Learn How Physical Therapy Can Improve Your RA

Advantages of Physical Therapy

Advantages of Physical Therapy

Did you know that there are many advantages of physical therapy as a treatment for rheumatoid arthritis? The American Physical Therapy Association defines a physical therapist as licensed professional with graduate training in “examining, diagnosing and treating”conditions that limit the body’s ability to move and function in daily life. That is exactly what is needed to treat RA.

What are the Advantages of Physical Therapy Treatments for RA?

Physical Therapists are specifically trained to prevent and/or improve your functional ability to move through the use of exercise,  education and individualized physical modalities.

Experienced Physical therapists  have developed an in-depth evaluation system they use to test your physical strengths and weaknesses. They use the information from that evaluation system as well as information from an interview with you to develop an individualized treatment plan for you.

They then begin the process of implementing your treatment plan. They always let your pain be their guide. If you are having a flare they do not push you. They often have you do isometric exercises if you are having a flare. They know not to exacerbate inflamed joints.

They teach you proper posture and body mechanics that protect your joints.

They  teach you exercises that will preserve your joint mobility, strength and the use of your joints.

Physical therapist professionals as a group have developed practice guidelines for treating rheumatoid arthritis.

They can teach you how to safely use any assistive devices you may need.

They teach you  safety measures to implement in your home and at work.

What Treatment Modalities Do Physical Therapists Use to Treat RA?

Physical therapists have many treatment modalities in their “tool box”:

They use hot and cold treatments as appropriate to treat pain and improve mobility.

They use electrical stimulation (usually Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation or TENS units to decrease your pain before exercise.

They use hydrotherapy to increase your range of motion, to relieve muscle spasms, to decrease pain and to strengthen your muscles.

They are trained in the use of rest and splinting, compression gloves and the use of assistive devices to protect your joints.

Saundra’s Experience With Physical Therapy Treatments

I visited 5 different Rheumatologists before I got a diagnosis of rheumatiod arthritis. By that time I finally had severely deformed hands and toes, pain in one shoulder and severe lower back pain. My rheumatologist put me on Gabapentin for my pain and sent me to a Neurosurgeon for my back pain.

The Neurosurgeon told me I needed back surgery and sent me to his scheduler to schedule my surgery. He told me the surgery would take 4-5 hours. He also sent me to a Physical Therapist for an evaluation prior to surgery.

The physical therapist evaluated me, designed a treatment plan and saw me twice a week for 3 months while I was waiting to have surgery. The physical therapist told me that the exercises he taught me would help to decrease the inflammation in my back. He used used a TENS unit for my pain for 20 minutes prior to each exercise session.

I was religious about doing the exercises I was taught at home between PT visits. My pain slowly began to subside. In the mean time, scheduling my surgery became a problem. The surgeon’s scheduler would not return my phone calls so surgery was delayed at least 4 times. During this time, my back began to improve significantly.

I was 72 years old and the more surgery was delayed the less I thought I needed it. Many people including my PCP advised against surgery unless I thought it was absolutely necessary. I am a nurse and I knew, at my age, a lengthy surgery would be a risk. I made the decision to not have surgery.

This all happened two years ago. I have continued to be religious about exercises, I am now off Gabapentin, and take Astaxanthin for my RA pain.  I have some stiffness in my back but no more severe pain.

I credit my Physical Therapist with saving me from back surgery! I am even grateful to the surgery scheduler who kept delaying my surgery.

I am obviously a big believer in the advantages of physical therapy and exercise for treating RA pain.

To Your Good Health and Happiness,




  1. OOOOOh How I love, love, love my PT!!! He has also kept me from surgeries and also was instrumental in helping me get into see an RA when my primary Doc was convinced I did not have RA. I good PT is a great member of any one health care team!!! ACTION POTENTIAL in Colorado Springs …any of the 6 locations is worth your time!!

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