Rehabilitation for Rheumatic Conditions

Medical rehabilitation, including physical and occupational therapy, can help you do daily activities while managing a rheumatic condition. A rehabilitation program tailored to your condition and needs allows you improve your strength and flexibility and the movement of your joints and muscles - all with less pain and stiffness. Such a program will not cure a rheumatic condition, but it can help you become better able to function and more independent.

Anyone who is experiencing pain, spasms, swelling or stiffness that is reducing the ability to function, the range of motion, strength or endurance, should consult a rehabilitation therapist. Seeing a physical or occupational therapist with special training in treating rheumatic diseases can be particularly helpful.

An appropriate rehabilitation program is essential for almost all persons with rheumatic diseases. It is most effective for conditions that involve the muscles or joints. The rheumatologists at Cedars-Sinai are well versed in the type of rehabilitation programs available and which ones best suit each patient and his or her condition.

A consultation with a rehabilitation therapist usually begins with an examination that will include:

  • Touching or manipulating muscles that are having spasms
  • Assessing range of movement, flexibility and strength
  • Analyzing movement and gait

In the first stage of rehabilitation, tender areas of the body are treated with massage, stretching or other approaches as needed. This will be followed with a specific, individualized home program consisting of stretching, strength building, movement re-education and self-management of pain and swelling. You will also learn how to maintain good posture and use your body safely. Group programs can help you cope physically, emotionally and mentally with your condition, giving you a better sense of control and more confidence in your ability to function and lead a full, active life.

Occupational therapy can help you do daily activities without putting unnecessary strain on joints or causing you to become tired.

Physical therapy can help you maintain your strength and flexibility, help reduce pain and keep your mobility at its maximum. Physical therapy can also help reduce stiffness in joints.

Aquatic therapy may be especially helpful to people who suffer with arthritis. Warm water helps to loosen tight joints and muscles while the resistance of the water improves muscle strength.

In some cases, physical therapy may involve splinting an area to keep it stable, applying moist heat or ice to reduce swelling and tenderness or exercise to strengthen muscles that protect a joint or enhance your ability to move and do daily activities.