If you have arthritis, whether you are newly diagnosed or a longtime sufferer, chances are good that your medical care team will refer you to orthopedic rehabilitation. The reason such referrals are so common is that good rehabilitation programs can help arthritis sufferers maintain or even improve joint function and control day-to-day symptoms of this potentially debilitating disease. So what can arthritis patients expect from orthopedic rehab?
Orthopedic rehabilitation begins with an initial assessment of your current overall condition and ability levels. A team of rehabilitation specialists will look over your medical history and ask you a series of questions. Typically, you will be asked to detail your arthritis symptoms, discuss how these symptoms affect your daily activities and quality of life, and explain what treatments you have had and which of them has been helpful in controlling your symptoms.
A physical examination is also done during this initial assessment, with the rehab team evaluating factors that include posture and alignment, levels of inflammation, stiffness and/or pain, range of motion in affected joints, levels of joint changes or damage, and the strength and function of muscles surrounding affected joints. Information gleaned from that initial assessment will be used as the basis for a personalized rehabilitation plan.
Your individualized treatment plan will be designed to meet your specific rehabilitation needs and goals. You can expect that plan to be a comprehensive one, employing a variety of therapies and treatments to aid you in controlling arthritis symptoms; slowing progression of the disease; maintaining or improving your level of activity, mobility and independence; and learning how to minimize the toll arthritis takes on your day-to-day life.
Physical therapy is an important component of orthopedic rehabilitation, so you will likely work with a therapist to strengthen muscles and joints, improve range of motion, and learn how to minimize stress on your affected joints. An occupational therapist may help you learn how to make day-to-day activities more manageable and/or less painful. You will likely be educated in treatments, methods and lifestyle changes that can help minimize arthritis symptoms. If necessary, you can also expect to be educated in the use of adaptive equipment as a means of gaining functional ability and/or mobility. A good orthopedic rehabilitation program will also offer resources to help you learn to manage the emotional toll of arthritis, including education in stress management techniques and/or counseling.
Overall, the goal of orthopedic rehabilitation is to provide you with the therapies, education and resources you need to better manage the symptoms and difficulties presented by arthritis. Taking advantage of these programs has led to a vastly improved quality of life for many arthritis sufferers, so if your medical care team has referred you to rehab, making the most of the opportunity is your best first step towards living better with arthritis.