Is Physical Therapy Good for Arthritis?

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Many chronic pain conditions respond to physical therapy treatments, but patients often wonder, “Is physical therapy good for arthritis?” Before you talk to your doctor or other medical professional about orthopedic physical therapy for arthritis, consider what expert orthopedists and physical therapists have to say about the most promising therapeutic techniques.

Understanding Physical Therapy for Arthritis

Arthritis is an often degenerative inflammation of the joints that causes joint pain, stiffness, limited mobility, and other symptoms that can interfere with daily life. As arthritis progresses, it damages the parts of the joint that cushion the bones against physical impacts. 

The Underlying Issues Behind Arthritis

Any physical therapy for arthritis is likely to consider the conditions that produce or exacerbate joint inflammation. With a focus on long-term healing, we could go beyond the question, “Is physical therapy good for arthritis?” and ask, “Does physical therapy address the root causes of inflammation,” and, “Can it reduce the symptoms of arthritis?” 

If arthritis is a byproduct of lifestyle choices, such as being too sedentary or engaging in exercise in an unhealthy way, physical therapy can be a way to train the body and mind to adapt to a lifestyle that includes moderate exercise. Improving range of motion can increase the variety of exercises a person can do and make it easier to use proper form and technique when exercising.

Physical therapy might not directly address arthritic inflammation due to an overactive immune system attacking the joints. However, a professional physical therapist can teach patients how to exercise and perform daily activities in safer ways that minimize joint damage while, a physical medicine and rehabilitation doctor or other specialist treats the inflammation with medication.

Physical therapy may be useful for patients who have obesity and arthritis. The increased physical load on joints as a result of obesity can trigger inflammation, making it painful and difficult to exercise regularly. An exercise program that builds muscle strength and mobility can restore confidence and start patients on the path to weight loss and improved quality of life.

Physical Therapy Treatments for Arthritis

The Mayo Clinic recommends physical therapy as one treatment for arthritis symptoms. Physical therapy can also assist in the recovery of physical injuries in people with arthritis. Therapeutic exercises improve flexibility and range of motion while minimizing inflammation.

Low-impact activities such as stretches and gentle walking can improve mobility and strengthen muscles. Swimming and exercises in water are particularly helpful because the water cushions your limbs and joints against impacts and relieves stress on weight-bearing joints, such as the hips, knees, and ankles.

The Effects of Physical Therapy on Joint Health

Gentle stretching of tendons, ligaments, and muscles can loosen the joints and make it easier for someone with arthritis to move without pain. Exercises that build muscle mass and improve muscle tone can make it easier to walk or lift objects, reducing strain on the joints and allowing them to heal. 

Professionally Trained Physical Therapists

Every person who seeks treatment for arthritis is different, so there is no single answer to the question, “Is physical therapy good for arthritis?” A professional, licensed physical therapist has the training and practical experience to evaluate patients during the first visit. Physical therapists create customized treatment plans that include exercise, stretching, ice, heat, electrical stimulation, and more. 

One-size-fits-all advice from anonymous internet sources, YouTube videos, and home remedies can sometimes make arthritis worse or keep people from getting the help they need. Instead, seek a professional provider with experience evaluating and treating people with arthritis.


If you are dealing with arthritis on its own or in conjunction with recovery from surgeries such as a total knee replacement or something else, the Exchange Physical Therapy Group can help. We’ll find a way to make your personal answer to the question “Is physical therapy good for arthritis?” a resounding and determined “Yes!” Call (201) 721-6130 (for our Jersey City branch), schedule an online appointment, or visit us at one of our other New Jersey locations today.