Physical/Occupational Therapy Notes

Living With Arthritis

by: Paul Fitzgerald, PT, DPT

There are over 100 different types of arthritis, osteoarthritis (OA) being the most common. As you may already know OA can be very painful and debilitating. OA is often referred to as a disease process affecting the axial and peripheral joints. It is characterized by progressive deterioration and loss of articular cartilage and by reactive bone changes at the margins of the joints and in the subchondral bone. OA is generally classified as primary or secondary. Primary OA is age related and associated with repetitive and/or high mechanical stress on a normal joint. Secondary OA is due to an underlying cause such as trauma, inflammatory, metabolic, developmental, or connective tissue diseases. There are several options available to help assist you in managing your OA.


Learn How to Manage Your Pain

Consulting with your primary care physician is the first step to take. It is your primary care physician who is responsible for the initial assessment and expedition of services necessary to diagnose and treat your condition. Although Washington State law allows direct access to physical therapy services most insurance plans will not cover this service without a physician’s referral, Medicare being an exception to the rule. Physical therapy is one of the most effective interventions for OA. A combination of low impact/low resistance exercise, thermal modalities (heat), and an anti-inflammatory have been found to be very effective in managing OA related symptoms and minimizing dysfunction. Many physical therapists view OA as a condition that develops secondary to the presence of mechanical dysfunction and/or neuromusculoskeletal imbalance and is not necessarily an independent disease process. It is the opinion of this therapist that in many cases developing OA may be preventable with early intervention and that your symptoms can be significantly improved by addressing the mechanical stress on the joint(s). Like many medical conditions, early intervention greatly improves your chance of recovery. Procrastination can be a slippery slope that eventually leads to further debilitation and/or the development of secondary complications. Taking the first step toward regaining control of your life and managing your symptoms is the most difficult one to take.

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Get Off Your Seats!

by: Lawrence Horry PTA, ACE CPT

By now, we all know that we should be exercising. The growing body of evidence and testimonials to the benefits of exercise is nearly endless: weight loss, improved muscle mass and strength, reduced blood pressure and cholesterol, better sleep, less stress, etc. But for those of us who are too busy or ahem, lazy; there is still hope in achieving some of the benefits of exercise, without exercising. If you say that’s NEAT, then you are indeed correct.

NEAT stands for non-exercise activity thermogenesis. In layman’s terms it’s physical activity vs. structured exercise. Why is NEAT important? Because even the little things count. By choosing to get up and walk for 30 minutes during your lunch break vs. sitting can burn up to an additional 120 calories. Or by tidying up your house for 60 minutes vs. watching the latest American Idol show, you can burn an additional 200 calories.

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Avoiding Upper Body Injuries In Winter

by: Robynn Stolte, OTR/L, CHT


Any time of year there is a risk of slips, trips, and falls leading to upper extremity injuries. However, wintertime is notorious to orthopedists and therapists treating the upper extremities. Ice skating, skiing, snowboarding, and other winter sports and activities are common causes of upper extremity injuries. However, there are some easy ways to decrease the risk of injury without interrupting your sport or outdoor activities.

Whether you are new to skiing or a long-time skier, you know that falling can be an inevitable experience. Skier’s thumb, or an injury of the ligaments that connect the bones in your thumb, is a common upper extremity skiing injury. The injury occurs when, during a fall, the ski pole handle places sideways pressure on the thumb causing stress to the ligament. To prevent injury to the ligament during a fall, avoid using the wrist straps of the ski pole or keep them loose to allow you to quickly release the poles. Simple finger grooves in the handle have ergonomic appeal, allowing easy grasp.

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