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Occupational therapists use specialized exercise equipment to train clients to avoid stress on their joints.

Clients with arthritis can experience pain and discomfort that impacts their quality of life. Finding the proper treatment can be a matter of trying different therapies and combining them until you can manage the pain without sacrificing your quality of life. Doctors can prescribe several pharmaceutical and physical treatments to manage pain, including occupational therapy. If you are interested in adding occupational therapy to your treatment plan for arthritis, you can make an appointment. Here, you can learn what occupational therapy is and how it can help treat arthritis.

What is arthritis?

Arthritis is a term used to refer to over 100 types of joint pain or disease. According to Arthritis.org, it is the leading cause of disability in the US. People of any age or occupation can develop arthritis. Women are more likely to suffer from arthritis, but people of any gender, race or medical background can develop arthritis symptoms.

Common symptoms of arthritis are:

  • Swelling
  • Pain
  • Stiffness
  • Limited range of motion

Arthritis can develop differently in each patient. Many live with arthritis for several years without a change in the intensity of their symptoms. Unfortunately, symptoms can progress without treatment, making it hard to complete daily activities like walking, climbing stairs, or smaller movements like typing. Moreover, if symptoms progress, they can cause permanent damage to your joints. For example, some people with arthritis develop swelling in their joints that present a knobby appearance.

Some damage isn’t visible to the naked eye but is apparent on X-rays showing scar tissue, displaced joints, and blocked circulation. Additionally, some types of arthritis can affect other organs, like your heart, eye, lungs, kidneys, or skin. Therefore, it can be essential to incorporate a holistic treatment plan to ensure you are monitoring the health of your entire body when treating arthritis.

Types of arthritis

There are several types of arthritis, including:

Osteoarthritis: This is the most common type of arthritis resulting from wear and tear, causing inflammation in your joints.

Autoimmune inflammatory arthritis: When your immune system is overactive, it can attack healthy tissue, causing inflammation in your joints and leading to arthritis.

Infection arthritis: Viral and fungal infections can cause arthritis when the infection spreads from another part of the body to a joint, typically the knee. Unlike other forms of arthritis, patients can treat this type of arthritis with anti-bacterial or anti-fungal medicines.

Metabolic arthritis (Gout): A buildup of uric acid crystals accumulating in the joints can cause this type of arthritis. Your body naturally forms these crystals by breaking down specific foods, including red meat. Sometimes, the body cannot flush out excess crystals leading to buildup and causing inflammation.

Rheumatoid arthritis: This is the most common form of autoimmune arthritis.

What is occupational therapy?

Occupational therapy focuses rehabilitation on helping clients gain or maintain movements required for their daily activities and careers. An occupational therapist can help you adapt your lifestyle and movements to complete specific tasks without pain. They can also help you practice exercises to regain mobility lost to your diagnosis. You can learn more about occupational therapy on our blog, “Occupation Therapy vs. Physical Therapy: Which Treatment is Right for You?”

Occupational therapists are specially trained and licensed therapists with graduate-level education. They are trained in specific techniques to develop their client’s muscles and retrain their minds to complete daily tasks without aggravating their condition. Equally important, they work with their clients to understand their specific needs and develop unique treatment plans for each client.

4 ways occupational therapy can help with arthritis

Here are the four ways occupational therapy can help with arthritis:

1. Practicing protection techniques

Managing pain and reducing inflammation are some of the most important treatments for chronic arthritis. Learning protection techniques can reduce stress on your joints, preserving them and reducing pain. For example, learning proper body positioning to avoid pressure on load-bearing joints in your back, hips and knees can help mitigate the pain in those areas. Additionally, they can teach you techniques for conserving energy and detecting pain so you can combat your symptoms more effectively.

2. Providing assistive devices

Occupational therapists can provide assistive devices to their clients that help them complete tasks without pain. These devices can include jar openers, reachers, easy-grip utensils, braces, and special clothing. These devices can help you find the best joint positioning for completing tasks without pain and help retrain your muscles to move without causing or aggravating joint inflammation. Your occupational therapist can recommend devices that best serve your needs and show you how to use them effectively.

3. Creating specialized exercise programs

An occupational therapist can design a specific exercise program for your needs. Controlling your weight and staying fit can be a helpful tool when managing the stress on your joints. Your occupational therapist can teach you exercises that help you adapt to or mitigate your symptoms. Creating a specialized exercise program can increase the effectiveness of your treatment. An occupational therapist can also design your program around your schedule, giving your exercises to practice at home and specific check-in points to track your progress.

4. Educating you about your condition

To become licensed professionals, occupational therapists receive specialized education on the body and exercise. Working with an occupational therapist can help you understand your condition, how it impacts your life, and ways you can adapt your routine to manage your pain. Understanding your condition gives you more power over your treatment and can improve the mental strain of dealing with a chronic condition. Working with your occupational therapist can also provide a support system for you.

At Living Well Balanced, we offer a wide range of fitness and physical health services from caring and experienced professionals. We provide personal training and physical, occupational, and nutritional therapy to assist our clients in their health and wellness management. You can make an appointment with one of our occupational therapists to learn how they can benefit your treatment plan for injury recovery or prevention and chronic pain. If you have any questions, you can always give us a call at 212-579-2858 or send an email to info@livingwb.com. Check out our blog for more information about alternative therapies.