Physical Therapy for Spinal Osteoarthritis: 5 Invaluable Benefits 

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Physical Therapy for Spinal Osteoarthritis: 5 Invaluable Benefits 

If you count yourself among the more than 53 million American adults who have arthritis, you are all too aware of how painful and debilitating arthritis can be. It literally can put you on the sidelines of your own life, keeping you from performing daily activities and work, as well as enjoying time with family and friends. 

Arthritis of the spine, known as spinal osteoarthritis, is challenging, causing neck or lower back pain. While there isn’t a cure for arthritis, physical therapy can help, says Neil Bhamb, MD. As we shine a light on arthritis during Arthritis Awareness Month, Dr. Bhamb explains what spinal osteoarthritis is and how physical therapy can help you get back to living and feeling more like yourself again.

Osteoarthritis explained

Did you know that there are over 100 different types of arthritis and related diseases? The most common forms of arthritis are osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, psoriatic arthritis, and gout. The type of arthritis that impacts the spine is osteoarthritis, referred to as OA, and ranks as the most common form of arthritis affecting the spine, but that’s not where the story ends.

Osteoarthritis holds the dubious distinction of not only being the most prevalent joint disease but also a leading cause of disability in older adults. With spinal osteoarthritis, the joints in the back part of the spine, called facet joints, degrade when the cartilage at the end of the joints wears down and becomes thinner.

Since facet joints handle spinal movement – twisting and bending – and cushioning movement to protect from excessive motion, degeneration of facet joints sets up a perfect storm for stiffness, pain, spinal instability, and reduced range of motion.

Osteoarthritis treatment typically includes medications to tackle pain, but does little to address the reduction in range of motion and function. That’s where physical therapy comes in.

Physical therapy can help spinal osteoarthritis patients

If you’ve done physical therapy, or PT, after surgery or an accident, you probably know that the overarching purpose of PT is to heal and restore function. With osteoarthritis, the premise is similar – improve joint function and enhance mobility to perform daily tasks and activities.

  1. Strengthen muscles and stabilize joints

One of the best benefits of physical therapy is that it’s a great way to impact the debilitating effects of spinal osteoarthritis, which are triggered by the destabilization and degeneration of facet joints. Your physical therapist creates a personalized treatment plan that includes joint-friendly exercises to zero in on the muscles and joints in the problem area. 

Over time, the exercises strengthen muscles around a joint. Those stronger muscles can then provide enhanced support to the joint. This scenario results in an improved range of motion, allowing you to do more tasks like getting dressed and spending an afternoon playing with your grandkids. 

  1. Reduce pain and inflammation

Physical therapy benefits tend to layer, so while strengthening your muscles and stabilizing your joints, you typically experience less inflammation, pain, and stiffness. That means you can say goodbye to missing out on all those family gatherings and invitations from friends you’ve been turning down due to being in pain. 

  1. Complements other treatment modalities

Another invaluable benefit of physical therapy is that it perfectly complements other treatment modalities. In fact, according to research, spinal osteoarthritis treatment plans that combine physical therapy and medications are a perfect mix enabling optimal management of symptoms. 

  1. Convenient with few side effects

When getting treated for any condition, it’s common to deal with adverse or side effects. Unlike many treatment modalities, there are few, if any, side effects with physical therapy. Some patients may experience slight soreness or swelling around the muscles and joints after a PT session, but fortunately, the gain far outweighs any pain. Since your therapist guides you through exercises you can do at home, the convenience can’t be beaten either.

  1. Enhances quality of life

One of the greatest impacts arthritis can have is preventing you from participating fully in life. Pain and other symptoms can make you self-conscious, causing you to withdraw from social situations. A physical therapy program can help you manage your symptoms, making you feel more capable and confident, and enhancing your quality of life.

If you have spinal osteoarthritis and want to learn if physical therapy is right for you, contact Dr. Neil Bhamb at our Century City or Marina Del Rey, California office for a consultation. Book your appointment online or call the office convenient for you. 

Dr. Bhamb and the professional team are committed to providing superior holistic spine care and can help you get back to the life you were meant to live. Contact us today.