While it’s true that arthritis sufferers can find relief through movement and exercise, those living with the disorder may naturally assume such treatments would be painful. But not so, says physical therapists and physicians.

“While it may seem counterintuitive, maintaining an active lifestyle can strengthen muscles, improve functionality, ease pain, and reduce depression and fatigue for those with knee OA (osteoarthritis),” wrote Dr. Joseph Markenson, a rheumatologist with the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York. “Studies have shown that exercise and physical therapy not only improved function for people with OA, but also delayed or prevented the need for surgery.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), older adults with knee osteoarthritis who engage in moderate physical activity at lead three times each week can reduce the risk of arthritis-related disability by 47 percent. Working with a physical therapist to develop a customized treatment and exercise plan will work to encourage mobility while creating a pain-free environment – one that doesn’t cause nor extend pain.

An ailment often associated with seniors and the elderly, the CDC estimates that 62 percent of adults with arthritis are actually under the age of 65. About 52.5 million adults and 294,000 children suffer from some form of arthritis, says the CDC.

According to the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA), physical therapy is effective in treating most types of arthritis. Through the facilitation of fluid joint movement as well as the improvement of muscle strength and flexibility, arthritis pain and joint stiffness can be reduced.

The key is following individualized treatment plans that consist of pain-free movements and exercises designed to expand over time as inflammation subsides. Movement offers nourishment to the joints, areas where degenerative changes to cartilage is likely occurring.

Improving muscle strength is also effective in treating arthritis. With stronger muscles come better joint stability and reduced joint stress, which together can reduce arthritis pain.

Such physical therapy treatments can also prevent the need for dangerous and costly surgeries or prescription pain medication in order to maintain personal happiness and independence.

“An active lifestyle can include simply walking, aerobics and strength training,” Dr. Markenson said. “It is important to be evaluated early by a healthcare professional who can help you find the right pain management regimen.”

To learn more about how physical therapy can benefit arthritis sufferers, contact your local PT practice to schedule an initial assessment with a licensed physical therapist.