I Have Arthritis - Now What?

Do you cringe when you here the word... Arthritis?

Do you feel like your life is over when your doctor tells you that is what's causing your pain?

Here is some great and important information to give you a little more background on your situation so you can restore your belief in health's potential!

There are many types of arthritis so for this post we will focus on osteoarthritis (OA). Osteoarthritis is also commonly referred to as degenerative joint disease and usually occurs later in life (although not always).

Commonly, people think that OA just happens as we age but there are other factors that come into play as well. Did you have a previous joint injury (from those years in sports)? Does OA run in your family?

If you have OA now, I want you to know that there are still options out there for you!

If you have been to see an orthopedic physician, I’m sure he/she has discussed options in helping regulate your pain. Physical therapy is a viable conservative care option whether you’ve been to see your physician or not.

Physical therapists are able to evaluate you and help decrease your functional impairments (i.e. difficult getting up from chairs, going up and down stairs, etc.). In keeping with last week’s introduction of evidence-based practice, I thought I would share some evidence about arthritis and physical therapy.

In a study by Deyle et al1, they randomly assigned two groups of subjects who had been referred to physical therapy for knee OA. One group of subjects received manual therapy and therapeutic exercise by the physical therapist while the other group received placebo ultrasound treatment by the physical therapist.

The exercise group reported for physical therapy 2x/week for 4 weeks for approximately 45 minutes each session. The placebo group reported 2x/week for 4 weeks for approximately 30-minute sessions.

After statistical analysis, subjects in the EXERCISE GROUP scored SIGNIFICANTLY BETTER on the Western Ontario and McMaster Universities Osteoarthritis Index (WOMAC), improved their 6 minute walk-test distance and maintained those gains at 4 weeks, 8 weeks and 1 year post treatment. Deyle et al1 also reported that 20% of the PLACEBO group underwent KNEE JOINT REPLACEMENTS while only 5% of the exercise group had knee replacements (both at 1 year follow-up).

I always emphasize that everyone’s journey is different and specific to that person so while the research is in favor of Physical Therapy to assist in OA, that doesn’t mean it will work for every person. With that being said, it’s another valuable tool in your toolbox to consider in your care and management of your pain!

Dr. Mary Claire Malooly, DPT, ATC


  1. Deyle GD, Henderson NE, Matekel RL, Ryder MG, Garber MB, Allison SC. Effectiveness of manual physical therapy and exercise in osteoarthritis of the knee. Ann Intern Med. 2000:132:173-181.