Physical Therapy for Arthritis

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May is National Arthritis Month and Rose City Physical Therapy would like to spread the word about joint health, prevention, and treatment. Arthritis is one of the most widespread health conditions in the United States affecting one in four adults – over 54 million men and women. We’ve selected a few articles that highlight the important relationship between arthritis and your diet – including which diets can reduce arthritis inflammation, what foods to avoid, and how physical therapy can reduce joint inflammation.

A physical therapist (PT) can help you get moving safely and effectively. Physical therapists are licensed professionals with graduate degrees and clinical experience who examine, diagnose and treat or help prevent conditions that limit the body’s ability to move and function in daily life, according to the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA).

Physical therapy focuses on the body’s ability to engage in movement. Movement can be anything from getting in and out of chairs to climbing stairs, walking in your neighborhood, playing a sport or doing recreational activities.

Goals of physical therapy in arthritis include improving the mobility and restoring the use of affected joints, increasing strength to support the joints, and maintaining fitness and the ability to perform daily activities.

What Can a Physical Therapist Do for You?

  • Develop an individualized plan of exercises to improve flexibility, strength, coordination and balance to achieve optimal physical function.
  • Teach you proper posture and body mechanics for common daily activities to relieve pain and improve function.
  • Show you how to properly use assistive devices such as walkers and canes.
  • Recommend different treatment options, such as braces and splints to support joints, shoe inserts to relieve stress on the lower extremities, and hot and cold therapy to ease joint pain and stiffness.
  • Suggest modifications to your environment, such as ergonomic chairs or a cushioned mat in your kitchen, to relieve pain and improve function.

What Does a Physical Therapy Session Look Like?

The goal of a physical therapy session is to teach you how to do things in your treatment plan – such as performing certain exercises, or learn to adapt functional activities – for yourself. The visits are often short and focus on identifying problems with your physical function and giving strategies for care that you can do at home.

The key to a successful outcome is learning the exercises from a physical therapist and practicing them at home over the long term. Improvement is gradual – the body gets stronger and more adept slowly over time – so consistent practice is essential.

When visiting the PT, think clearly about what your complaint is and what you would like to be able to do after physical therapy. Your goal can be getting in and out of your car without pain, raising up on your toes or raising your arms to reach items in your kitchen cabinets, taking a walk or performing your job without pain in the hips, knees and feet. Your PT can then work with you to develop a plan that is right for you to achieve your goals.

In most cases, you don’t need to see the PT every week. Periodic visits every few months are sufficient to update your program if necessary. When you experience a change in your health – such as a flare in your arthritis that causes you to fall behind in your exercise program or involvement of a different joint that affects another area of function – you can return to the physical therapist to update your exercise program and treatment strategy.

How to Find a Physical Therapist?

If you are interested in seeing a PT, ask your doctor for a recommendation. You may not need a doctor’s referral to see a PT, but check with your insurance to make sure it will be covered. Your insurance may also limit the number of sessions for a particular problem, so make sure you know this information before you see a PT.

If you’d like to know more about reducing arthritis inflammation, and how physical therapy can reduce joint pain from arthritis, contact Rose City Physical Therapy today.


May is National Arthritis Month and Rose City Physical Therapy would like to spread the word about joint health, prevention, and treatment. Arthritis is one of the most widespread health conditions in the United States affecting one in four adults – over 54 million men and women. We’ve selected a few articles that highlight the important relationship between arthritis and your diet – including which diets can reduce arthritis inflammation and what foods to avoid.

If you are one of the 30 million in the U.S. who suffer from OA, or osteoarthritis, you probably spend a fair amount of time looking for ways to help reduce your joint pain and stiffness.  Of course, an individualized rehabilitation exercise program that includes specific stretching and strengthening exercises can go a long way to help increase your mobility and improve function.  You might be surprised to learn, however, that you can find some healthy solutions in your cupboard as well.  In this post, we will outline some healthy dietary tips that may be able to help you with your achy joints by introducing inflammation-fighting foods into your diet.

The Vicious Cycle of Low Nutritional Value Food

The Vicious Cycle of Low Nutritional Value Food

The human body requires a wide variety of vitamins and minerals, along with key components such as quality proteins and healthy fats in order to function most effectively.  In many cases, however, people rely on foods that offer little in the way of good nutritional value, thereby depriving their body of the fundamental building blocks it needs.  For those with diets that rely heavily on refined carbohydrates such as crackers, potato chips, and white bread, along with a continual dose of sugar found in most beverages, snacks, and candies, it means their body is receiving little in the way of proper nutritional support.  In fact, many seemingly innocuous foods like tomato sauce, canned beans, fruit juices, and condiments such as ketchup and relish, might not “seem that bad”, but looking at the label shows that sugar lurks within their ingredients.

Without a conscious effort and continual diligence to maintain a healthy diet, many people continue with the cycle of trying to feed their hunger with low nutritional value foods.  Their body is not getting what it truly needs to function well, so it calls out for more food, leading individuals to reach for the first available food, thus continuing the cycle.  Is it any wonder then that many Americans struggle with obesity, thus putting even more stress and pressure on their joints?

How to Break the Cycle

Feeding your body what it truly needs can help break the cycle of hunger, poor food choices, and weight gain, followed by increasingly achy joints.  To start, read the labels of all the foods you are putting in your body.  Pay particular attention to any added sugar, along with high levels of carbohydrates and/or saturated fat.  You might be surprised at some of the “healthy” foods you were eating are loaded with things that offer little in the way of properly fueling your body.  Focus on eating unprocessed, whole foods such as avocado or broccoli from the produce area and use spices or a little garlic to add taste appeal.  If you aren’t sure what spices will make your food taste good, read the labels of some spice mixes.  If they don’t add any salt, then buy the mix.  Otherwise, make note of the spices they include in their mix and buy them individually.  Then make your own spice mix without salt.

Supporting Joints Through Diet

Supporting Joints Through Diet

Foods that offer inflammation dampening properties are of high value for osteoarthritis sufferers.  Bone health is also important for individuals with OA, so a diet high in Vitamin D and calcium sources such as quality dairy choices is desirable as well.  This includes no or low-fat cottage cheese and Greek yogurts, along with reduced or no fat cheeses and milk, all of which will help provide sufficient amounts of calcium and Vitamin D.  Dark, leafy greens such as broccoli, chard, kale, collard greens, and spinach can help provide joints with important nutrients such as Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Vitamin D and Vitamin A.  All of these foods have wonderful inflammation reducing properties.

In addition, try to reduce the amount of red meat in your diet which is loaded with saturated fat.  Instead, focus more on including oily fish choices such as tuna, mackerel, salmon and sardines.  If you just cannot bring yourself to try fish, then at least supplement your diet with krill or fish oil pills or flaxseed oil.  For snacks, reach for nuts instead of crackers.  They are loaded with nutrients and will actually feed your body, making it less likely you will continue to crave more food.  Green tea is a great choice for a beverage.  Instead of adding sugar for sweetness, add a little stevia instead.

The Ultimate Arthritis Diet

One of the most common questions people with any form of arthritis have is, “Is there an arthritis diet?” Or more to the point, “What can I eat to help my joints?”

The answer, fortunately, is that many foods can help. Following a diet low in processed foods and saturated fat and rich in fruits, vegetables, fish, nuts and beans is great for your body. If this advice looks familiar, it’s because these are the principles of the so-called Mediterranean diet, which is frequently touted for its anti-aging, disease-fighting powers.

Studies confirm eating these foods can do the following:

  • Lower blood pressure
  • Protect against chronic conditions ranging from cancer to stroke
  • Help arthritis by curbing inflammation
  • Benefit your joints as well as your heart
  • Lead to weight loss, which makes a huge difference in managing joint pain.

Whether you call it a Mediterranean diet, an anti-inflammatory diet or simply an arthritis diet, here’s a look at key foods to focus on – and why they’re so good for joint health.

Fish - The Ultimate Arthritis Diet


How much: Health auth­orities like The American Heart Association and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommend three to four ounces of fish, twice a week. Arthritis experts claim more is better.

Why: Some types of fish are good sources of inflammation-fighting omega-3 fatty acids. A study of 727 postmenopausal women, published in the Journal of Nutrition in 2004, found those who had the highest consumption of omega-3s had lower levels of two inflammatory proteins: C-reactive protein (CRP) and interleukin-6.

More recently, researchers have shown that taking fish oil supplements helps reduce joint swelling and pain, duration of morning stiffness and disease activity among people who have rheumatoid arthritis (RA).

Best sources: Salmon, tuna, sardines, herring, anchovies, scallops and other cold-water fish. Hate fish? Take a supplement. Studies show that taking 600 to 1,000 mg of fish oil daily eases joint stiffness, tenderness, pain and swelling.

Nuts & Seeds: Fish - The Ultimate Arthritis Diet

Nuts & Seeds

How much: Eat 1.5 ounces of nuts daily (one ounce is about one handful).

Why: “Multiple studies confirm the role of nuts in an anti-inflammatory diet,” explains José M. Ordovás, PhD, director of nutrition and genomics at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University in Boston.

A study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2011 found that over a 15-year period, men and women who consumed the most nuts had a 51 percent lower risk of dying from an inflammatory disease (like RA) compared with those who ate the fewest nuts. Another study, published in the journal Circulation in 2001 found that subjects with lower levels of vitamin B6 – found in most nuts – had higher levels of inflammatory markers.

More good news: Nuts are jam-packed with inflammation-fighting monounsaturated fat. And though they’re relatively high in fat and calories, studies show noshing on nuts promotes weight loss because their protein, fiber and monounsaturated fats are satiating. “Just keep in mind that more is not always better,” says Ordovás.

Best sources: Walnuts, pine nuts, pistachios and almonds.

Fruits & Veggies: The Ultimate Arthritis Diet

Fruits & Veggies

How much: Aim for nine or more servings daily (one serving = 1 cup of most veggies or fruit or 2 cups raw leafy greens).

Why: Fruits and vegetables are loaded with antioxidants. These potent chem­icals act as the body’s natural defense system, helping to neutralize unstable molecules called free radicals that can damage cells.

Research has shown that anthocyanins found in cherries and other red and purple fruits like strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and blackberries have an anti-inflammatory effect.

Citrus fruits – like oranges, grapefruits and limes – are rich in vitamin C. Research shows getting the right amount of that vitamin aids in preventing inflammatory arthritis and maintaining healthy joints.

Other research suggests eating vitamin K-rich veggies like broccoli, spinach, lettuce, kale and cabbage dramatically reduces inflammatory markers in the blood.

Best sources: Colorful fruits and veggies – the darker or more brilliant the color, the more antioxidants it has. Good ones include blueberries, cherries, spinach, kale and broccoli.

Olive Oil: The Ultimate Arthritis Diet

Olive Oil

How much: Two to three tablespoons daily

Why: Olive oil is loaded with heart-healthy fats, as well as oleocanthal, which has properties similar to nonsteroidal, anti-inflammatory drugs. “This compound inhibits activity of COX enzymes, with a pharmacological action similar to ibuprofen,” says Ordovás. Inhibiting these enzymes dampens the body’s inflammatory processes and reduces pain sensitivity.

Best sources: Extra virgin olive oil goes through less refining and processing, so it retains more nutrients than standard varieties. And it’s not the only oil with health benefits. Avocado and safflower oils have shown cholesterol-lowering properties while walnut oil has 10 times the omega-3s that olive oil has.

Legumes: The Ultimate Arthritis Diet


How much: About one cup, twice a week (or more)

Why: Beans are loaded with fiber and phytonutrients, which help lower CRP, an indi­cator of inflammation found in the blood. At high levels, CRP could indicate anything from an infection to RA. In a study published in The Journal of Food Composition and Analysis in 2012, scientists analyzed the nutrient content of 10 common bean varieties and identified a host of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds.

Beans are also an excellent and inexpensive source of protein, with about 15 grams per cup, which is important for muscle health.

Best sources: Small red beans, red kidney beans and pinto beans rank among the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s top four antioxidant-containing foods (wild blueberries being in the number 2 spot).

Grains & Seeds: The Ultimate Arthritis Diet

Whole Grains

How much: Eat a total of 6 ounces of grains per day; at least 3 of which should come from whole grains. One ounce of whole grain would be equal to ½ cup cooked brown rice or 1 slice of whole-wheat bread.

Why: Whole grains contain plenty of filling fiber – which can help you maintain a healthy weight. Some studies have also shown that fiber and fiber-rich foods can lower blood levels of the inflammatory marker C-reactive protein.

Best sources: Eat foods made with the entire grain kernel, like whole-wheat flour, oatmeal, bulgur, brown rice, quinoa. Some people may need to be careful about which whole grains they eat. Gluten – a protein found in wheat and other grains – has been linked to inflammation for some people.”

Nightshades: The Ultimate Arthritis Diet

Should You Avoid Nightshades?

Nightshade vegetables, including eggplant, tomatoes, red bell peppers and potatoes, are disease-fighting power­houses that boast maximum nutrition for minimal calories.

They also contain solanine, a chemical that has been branded the culprit in arthritis pain. There’s no scientific evidence to suggest that nightshades trigger arthritis flares. In fact, some experts believe these vegetables contain a potent nutrient mix that helps inhibit arthritis pain.

However, many people do report significant symptom relief when they avoid nightshade vegetables. So doctors say, if you notice that your arthritis pain flares after eating them, do a test and try eliminating all nightshade vegetables from your diet for a few weeks to see if it makes a difference.


By focusing on foods that can potentially reduce arthritis inflammation, you may find your cravings are reduced because you are finally feeding your body what it needs. In turn, you may find yourself losing some weight thus reducing stress on your joints. By searching online for “inflammation reducing recipes” or “foods for osteoarthritis”, you can open yourself up to an entirely new way of eating that is healthy and delicious.

Rose City Physical Therapy is publishing a series of articles for National Arthritis Month. Be sure to check back next week to learn how physical therapy can reduce joint pain and inflammation from arthritis. Contact Rose City Physical Therapy today if you’d like to know more about how physical therapy can reduce joint pain and improve motor function.


When Diet Worsens Osteoarthritis Pain

May is National Arthritis Month and Rose City Physical Therapy would like to spread the word about joint health, prevention, and treatment. Arthritis is one of the most widespread health conditions in the United States affecting one in four adults – over 54 million men and women. We’ve selected a few articles that highlight the important relationship between arthritis and your diet – including which diets can reduce arthritis inflammation and what foods to avoid.

Read more