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Here’s What You Should Know…

  • DO go and see your doctor and get your usual care
  • ALSO go see a physical therapist that specializes in manual therapy and therapeutic exercise
  • The combination of these forms of care are very effective at helping to decrease pain and dysfunction caused by hip and knee osteoarthritis

no-arthritis-painA Typical Scenario

I want to share a typical scenario with you…

It’s what many of my patient with arthritis do when their pain gets bad enough or when they notice that it’s interfering with their life.

Follow along and see if this sounds familiar to you.

John Goes To The Doctor

The first thing John does is go see his primary care doctor.

If the doctor has not already given John a diagnosis, the doctor will examine John and perhaps order (or take) an x-ray of the painful joint.

John’s doctor will use all of the information gathered (from the exam and the x-ray) to figure out if John has osteoarthritis.

Let’s suppose that the diagnosis is positive… That means that the findings suggest that John does, in fact, have osteoarthritis (which is also referred to as degenerative joint disease).

In an attempt to get rid of (or at the very least manage) John’s pain the doctor might suggest that John:

  • Temporarily stop doing activities that increase the pain
  • Do some light stretching exercises (as indicated)
  • And take some medications such as
    • Pain medication
    • Anti-inflammatory medication
    • Muscle relaxants

John Goes Home

Let’s pretend that John is the perfect patient. He listens to all of the doctor’s suggestions and immediately fills his prescription(s). He then takes the medicine(s) as prescribed for the suggested period of time.

But unfortunately the suggestions and the medicine don’t do enough. John is still in quite a bit of pain and his quality of life is still not very high.

He can’t sleep very well and wakes up frequently and he can’t sleep in certain positions.

He wakes up very stiff and it takes a while for him to “warm up” enough to get going for the day.

He can’t participate in his usual activities (such as perhaps taking his dogs for a walk, or playing golf, or going to the gym).

So John goes back to the doctor. At this point it’s common for the doctor to recommend and prescribe Physical Therapy.

John Goes to Physical Therapy

Here’s where I’m going to break from our “typical scenario”. The reason for this is that the amount of variability in types of treatment you might get at a physical therapy clinic is very broad.

Some physical therapy treatments focus mainly on the use of “modalities”. This means that a part of the treatment session would include things like:

  • Hot packs
  • Ice packs
  • Ultrasound
  • Electric Stimulation
  • Therapeutic Lasers

Other physical therapists focus on exercises done on weight machines (like you might find at a gym).

Some physical therapy clinics specialize in things like Pilates or massage.

And still others are experts in manual therapy and low tech (i.e. things you can do at home with very low cost equipment) exercise.

Related: Exercise For Hip Arthritis

The type of physical therapy that John gets depends on where he goes.

But in any case (back to the scenario again) it’s at this point that John will typically abandon the suggestions his doctor made (i.e. he stops taking his medicine) and instead focuses on just physical therapy.

And The Results Are…

At this point John has probably gotten “fair” results.

If he got lucky and was able to find an excellent physical therapist then he may experience excellent results.

But he most likely just got average results… And in my opinion that’s not good enough.

So what, you might ask, could John have done better? I’m glad you asked because there is…

A Better Way: Medical Care PLUS (excellent) Physical Therapy

In my experience and according to new research the best combination is traditional medical care and excellent physical therapy done at the same time.

Go and see your doctor and follow their recommendations.

And talk with your doctor to find out if they think physical therapy might be helpful.

If so make sure you locate a physical therapist that specializes in treating arthritis AND are experts in therapeutic exercise AND do manual therapy.