Chronic joint pain can be debilitating. Find out how physical therapy can help relieve your aches and pains.


Chronic joint pain can last for weeks and even months. Joints are the structures that form the connections between the bones. Joints provide support and assist you in movement. There are many different conditions that can cause chronic joint pain, including bursitis, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, sprains and strains. Joint pain can occur in any part of the body, but the knee, hip and shoulder are most common.

Physical Therapy for Joint Pain

A physical therapist can work with you to strengthen the muscles that surround the joint, improve range of motion, stabilize the joint and relieve joint pain. Passive treatments by a physical therapist include cold therapy, heat therapy and hydrotherapy. Cold therapy decreases swelling and helps relieve pain. Heat therapy increases blood flow to the joints and promotes circulation. Hydrotherapy includes exercises in warm water to facilitate motion. Strengthening exercises increase the power of the muscles and can also help alleviate pain. Flexibility exercises help increase movement and restore the joints back to normal function. Depending on the cause of joint pain, a physical therapist may implement soft tissue mobilization or joint mobilization. Studies have supported that these types of manual therapy are beneficial for those suffering with joint pain.

Causes of Chronic Joint Pain

“Osteoarthritis and joint disorders rank among the most common conditions for visits to health care providers, according to a new Mayo Clinic Proceedings study. Osteoarthritis is a progressive joint disorder caused by gradual loss of cartilage. Cartilage loss results in the development of bony spurs and cysts at the surface and margins of the joints, which leads to inflammation, pain, stiffness, limited movement and possible deformity of the joint.” Osteoarthritis is a common cause of chronic joint pain.

Bursitis is a medical condition that affects the small, fluid-filled sacs. These sacs are known as bursae. They are the cushions of the joints. It often occurs from repetitive motion. The bursae becomes inflamed and causes joint pain. Bursitis often occurs in the elbow, shoulder and hip. Physical therapy strengthens the muscles in the affected area and eases the pain from bursitis.

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that affects joints in the hands, knees, feet, wrists, shoulders and ankles. Enzymes attack the body’s tissues and destroy the linings of the joints. The end result is stiffness, pain, swelling and reduced movement. Physical therapy can help ease the pain of rheumatoid arthritis and even slow the progression of this disease.

Chronic joint pain can also be due to psoriatic arthritis. This skin condition is characterized by joint swelling, stiffness and pain. The immune system attacks the joints in psoriatic arthritis. It often occurs in the finger and toe joints but can occur in the back and knees.

No matter what the cause of joint pain, physical therapy can help you manage the pain and increase joint function. A physical therapist will create an individualized treatment plan depending on the cause of your joint pain. Physical therapy has helped hundreds with chronic joint pain and can help you, too.



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