Ways Physical Therapy Can Reduce Arthritis Pain

Physical therapy can help relieve arthritis symptoms, reduce the need for pain medication, and even delay or negate the need for surgery.

Physical therapy for arthritis can include exercises to improve joint mobility and tips on posture and movement that can help a person manage pain and prevent injury.

Some physical therapists recommend assistive devices or changes in a person’s living environment to further reduce arthritis pain.

The specific physical therapy program a person needs, including the frequency of sessions and the progress they make, depends on the type of arthritis they have, its severity, lifestyle, health, and other factors.

This article examines how physical therapy can help with arthritis.

Physical therapy is a standard treatment for many different types of arthritis.

It can help people regain mobility and reduce pain, and it can help a person delay or avoid surgery in other cases. Doctors may also recommend physical therapy after surgery.

Numerous studies have documented the benefits of physical therapy for arthritis.

A 2019 study evaluated the effectiveness of several non-drug arthritis treatments across eight systematic reviews. Exercise and physical therapy were found to reduce rheumatoid arthritis symptoms and relieve pain.

Similarly, a 2019 paper claimed that supervised, active treatment, including physical and exercise therapy, is the best treatment for knee and hip osteoarthritis. The authors added that exercise should serve as the first line of treatment and that manipulative physical therapy should comprise the second line of treatment.

A 2018 paper agreed with these findings, arguing that physical therapy exercise and adjustments to a person’s environment could help them cope.

Physical therapy, especially physical therapy that involves exercise, offers many benefits for arthritis. These include:

  • Help with injuries: Individuals in pain and injury may move in ways that cause additional injury or pain. Physical therapy can help a person bypass these injuries safely. For example, a physical therapist can teach a person how to use a walker without bending over or adopting a posture that causes back pain.
  • Strengthening of the muscles and improvement of joint mobility: People with arthritis may be reluctant to exercise because they think it will make their condition worse. Physical therapy helps them move safely and strengthen muscles and joints. This can help prevent pain from a sedentary lifestyle, promote overall strength, and improve mobility.
  • Reduce pain: Physical therapy can help relieve pain by strengthening muscles and joints and reducing secondary complications of a sedentary lifestyle.
  • Change environment: Various environmental changes, including the use of certain devices, can reduce arthritis symptoms. Physical therapists can recommend these modifications and teach people how to use devices such as canes and braces.
  • Dealing with injuries: Physical therapists can teach people how to adapt to injuries and pain without making them worse.

Many types of physical therapy can help with arthritis. They include:

  • Manipulation: A physical therapist moves the affected joint or the area around it and may massage inflamed tissue.
  • exercise therapy: A physical therapist gives specific exercises to overcome muscle weakness or avoid injury.
  • Orthotic support: A therapist recommends specific equipment to facilitate the movement.
  • Postoperative physiotherapy: A therapist helps a person become functional again after surgery.

The type of physical therapy a person needs depends on the type of arthritis they have, their location, and their overall health. Individuals should consult a physical therapist before beginning physical therapy at home.


People can try the following exercises:

  • Sitting and standing: Stand in front of a supportive chair and then sit down. Get up and repeat.
  • bribes: Stand in front of the body with a strong chair. Holding onto this, slowly lift your foot off the ground by kicking it back toward your hip. Hold for 2-3 counts, then repeat on both sides.
  • Stretch: Lie face down on a flat, firm surface. Point one arm straight ahead. Reach behind with the opposite arm to grasp the foot and gently extend the foot up towards the hip.

Learn more about knee exercises for arthritis.


People can try the following exercises:

  • Shell: Lie on one side with your knees slightly bent. Keep your feet together and lift your top knee. Hold for 2-3 counts and repeat 5-10 times on each side.
  • Lift a leg: Lie on one side with your legs stretched out. Lift, hold and lower the top leg. Repeat 5-10 times on each side.


People can try the following exercises:

  • Shoulder rolls: Pull shoulders forward 5-10 times in a rolling motion, then roll back 5-10 times.
  • Neck mobility: While sitting up straight and facing forward, twist your neck to the left and then to the right. Next, rotate your neck down so your right ear moves toward your right shoulder. Repeat on the other side.
  • Mobility of the shoulder: While standing or sitting in a straight, neutral position, raise your arms overhead and clasp your hands. Rotate your arms to one side and then to the other. Then move them forward as comfortably as possible and back as comfortably as possible.

Learn more about neck exercises for arthritis.

General exercises

People can try the following general exercises to relieve arthritis:

  • walk
  • gentle water aerobics or swimming
  • Yoga and Tai Chi

Learn more about exercises for arthritis pain.

Physiotherapy is an important part of treating osteoarthritis. It can reduce pain, improve mobility, and help a person before or after surgery.

People with arthritis should ask a doctor about the benefits of physical therapy and look for a qualified physical therapist they can trust.