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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.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine
Nancy Ann Shadick, MD, MPH - Internal Medicine, Rheumatology
Last Revised June 5, 2012

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