Physical Therapy in Rheumatoid Arthritis

Physical Therapy in Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is a debilitating condition causing a person to experience swelling and pain in the joints. It is an autoimmune, chronic, inflammatory disease that can be extremely painful.

Usually, the disease has a fluctuating course with periods of active disease and remission, that are often cyclic in nature. Some individuals might also have specific triggers to the disease, like exposure to extreme cold or moisture.


  • Swelling of the joints, usually in the smaller joints like the fingers and the toes.
  • As the disease progresses, deformities in joints are inevitable. Some of these deformities may be enough to severely impact the daily activities of a patient.
  • Pain in the affected joints and the surrounding joints as well.
  • Low-grade fever
  • Loss of appetite
  • Malaise
  • Fatigue

Is Rheumatoid Arthritis Genetic? 

Yes, Rheumatoid arthritis can be genetic. Having said that, most cases of rheumatoid arthritis are idiopathic in nature, meaning that there is no particular reason for their occurrence.

Can Physical Therapy Reverse the Disease?

This is one of the most common inquiries regarding the disease. It is not possible to reverse the disease but physical therapy can definitely, help prevent, retard or correct the mechanical conditions and deformities caused due to the disease.

How Can Physical Therapy Help with Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Physical therapy can play an integral role in the management of chronic rheumatoid arthritis. A skilled physiotherapist can help you cope with chronic pain and disability that is associated with the disease.

You can also learn energy-saving techniques that will be helpful in the later stages of the disease. In addition, a physical therapist will also teach you methods of joint prevention that will help you to maintain the flexibility and strength of the muscles and joints.

Treatment Techniques used in Physical Therapy

  • Cold or hot therapy is really effective in helping patients combat the pain that they feel.
  • Hydrotherapy is another option that your physical therapist might suggest. The water can be a helpful tool to get you to relax. Your physical therapist may also guide you with certain exercises in the water that could offer mild resistance to ensure that your muscles do not use lose their tone.
  • Massage, deep tissue manipulation and trigger point release are some effective methods that focus on pain reduction, improvement of function and improvement in the general flexibility and welfare of the patient.
  • Exercises are important at this time as well, depending upon the severity of the disease and how widespread it has become. Gentle aerobic exercises, stabilization and coordination exercises and conditioning exercises are some exercises that your physical therapist might advise you.
  • Biofeedback and patient education are effective means for physical therapists to ensure that you are safe at home as well. By following their instructions, you will be able to preserve your joint health and get a lot done with minimal energy expansion.

How Often Are Physical Therapy Sessions Required for Rheumatoid Arthritis?

The exact number of sessions required in Rheumatoid Arthritis depends on the following factors:

  • The stage of advancement of the disease
  • Expectations of the patient
  • Physical fitness of the patient at the time of diagnosis
  • The commitment of the patient to follow home exercise programs

What Does the Prognosis of Rheumatoid Arthritis Look Like?

Since Rheumatoid Arthritis is a chronic, inflammatory condition, it is unlikely to resolve completely. However, you can be sure that with adequate physical therapy, you can look forward to a fully functional life.

Through effectively communicated patient education programmed, physical therapy can not only help you to cope with the disease but ensure that its progress is arrested to the maximum level and you enjoy many years free of pain and disability.

An experienced physiotherapist has the tools and the experience to help you through the debilitating disease. You can be provided with a detailed assessment of your condition. In addition, support from family and friends always helps a great deal as well.