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May 05, 2016

3 Ways To Maximise The Effectiveness Of Physical Therapy For Rheumatoid Arthritis Patients

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is part of the conditions whose symptoms can be alleviated by a physical exercise therapy program. The direct benefits stem from an increase in flexibility and muscle strength. As many physical therapy specialists point out, the right kind of routine confers patients more energy and the motivation to actually get off the couch and stretch those muscles, instead of focusing their whole attention on the pain. It’s no secret that RA also triggers fatigue in patients, a symptom that becomes increasingly acute when the physical activity is close to zero for extended periods of time.

Are all exercise routines helpful in alleviating RA pain?

Well, not exactly. You see, developing an effective routine and personalizing the exercises in accordance to the physical condition, extent of the illness and other individual factors proprietary to the patient in question is a matter of experience and knowledge. A physical therapy student fresh out of medical school may possess the theoretical textbook comprehension, but without hands-on practice, he lacks the deeper insight necessary to tailor a program to the needs and preferences of his clients.

The problem here isn’t that the benefits of a therapy session are reduced, but also that forcing a patient to perform too difficult or too painful exercises inevitably breaks his motivation to keep going. Consider how reluctant healthy people are towards physical workouts in general, and multiply that by a factor of 10 to obtain an idea about the enthusiasm of RA sufferers.

In addition to working with a professional physical therapist, let’s find out the three factors that make a physical therapy program more efficient.

Adapted and new forms of exercising

The professional therapist suggested by your rheumatologist knows that boredom represents one of the biggest impediments in progress, along with a routine that’s either too easy, too difficult or simply the same every day. Consequentially, he will always come up with new and effective sets of exercises by evaluating your current progression. At the same time, it’s his job to show you how to execute them and ensure that each of these exercises is performed correctly, for maximum benefits.

Zero tolerance for classical excuses 

RA patients often try to find reasons to get out of physical therapy, invoking extremely painful sensations in a certain area, exhaustion, so on and so forth. In this field, you’ll often hear the phrase “I’ll just do more exercises tomorrow”. That’s when the skill of the physical therapist comes into play, as he doesn’t take no for an answer and will be able to suggest an alternative routine that doesn’t involve the areas that hurt too much. In addition, exercising in water confers more support thanks to buoyancy, and limits the pressure on the joints.

Humid heat therapy in conjunction with workouts

Humid heat is just a fancy word for hot showers in the morning or just before the physical therapy session. Their role is to alleviate the stiffness in the joints, relax the muscles and promote better blood circulation. Studies have shown that RA patients are almost always more enthusiastic about their exercises after a dip in hot water, which is why professional treatment facilities are equipped with saunas, hot tubs and showers.