What if someone told you that the opioids you’re taking for pain relief are actually making your arthritis worse? You’d probably want to listen to that person. Opioids like morphine and oxycodone alter your perception of pain. You might be “feeling no pain” when you take these pills, but it’s actually doing nothing to improve your arthritis symptoms. Before you take another pill for your arthritis pain, call Sports & Orthopaedic Therapy Services to schedule an appointment with a physical therapist. We want you to know that relief from arthritis pain is possible with the help of physical therapy.
What is Arthritis?
Osteoarthritis, more commonly known as simply “arthritis,” is a degenerative condition that impacts the joints. The connecting joints between bones are made of cartilage, and if that cartilage wears out, it can cause bones to grind and scrape together in ways they were not meant to. Getting older is considered one of the main causes of arthritis; our joints simply wear out as we age. However, there are other factors that can increase the likelihood of developing arthritis. These can include genetics, injuries, repetitive physical jobs, participating in high-impact sports and being overweight. Arthritis commonly affects weight-bearing joints, such as the hips and knees, but it can also develop in many other joints.
Symptoms of Arthritis
The most common arthritis symptom is pain in the joint that has lost too much cartilage. That joint will feel stiff in the morning when you wake up, or if you sit or lie down for extended periods. Activities that use an affected joint will be painful. The joint hurts if you touch it or put pressure on it. An arthritic joint might be “noisy,” making cracks and pops when it is used. Your body might even attempt to grow new bone structure in the arthritic joint, as a defense mechanism; this is painful and you will feel it.
How Physical Therapy Can Help Arthritis Pain
Opioids can alter your mind so that you no longer feel arthritis pain, but that’s all they do. You won’t feel the arthritis pain, but meanwhile your bones are still grinding together and the arthritis condition is getting worse. That’s not a sustainable plan. Eventually, you will probably need a more powerful painkiller, because the condition is always getting worse while you’re taking opioids and it’s pushing you closer to the need for an expensive surgery.
Physical therapy can help you ditch the opioid painkillers for your arthritis and even avoid the need for surgery. The process starts with an examination by your physical therapist and observation of which activities cause the pain symptoms to flare up. Once the diagnosis is completed, the real work begins.
Your physical therapist will craft an individualized exercise program that will support your joint structures and relieve arthritis pain. Manual physical therapy, which is a targeted massage of the impacted joints, will likely be a part of your treatment plan. Your physical therapist will also teach you ways that you can adjust your on-the-job work area to place less stress on arthritic joints.
Your physical therapy will include an at-home exercise plan to improve your overall health. If you are overweight, this will include weight loss exercise and nutritional advice to safely lose pounds. Losing weight can be a highly effective way to relieve arthritis pain in weight-bearing joints. And of course, your physical therapist will be there to motivate you every step of the way.
Opioid painkillers won’t do anything to slow the advance of arthritis. They also carry significant risks. Physical therapy is a safe and effective alternative that will improve your symptoms without the risk. Call our office today to set up your first appointment with a physical therapist.