It can be pretty depressing when you’re diagnosed with osteoarthritis and you learn that there is no cure and virtually no way to restore the damaged joint.

See Degenerative Arthritis

Physical therapy can help to alleviate pain, stiffness, soreness and other symptoms of osteoarthritis.
Osteoarthritis Symptoms and Signs

But despite this, you can still have control over several factors that have a big influence on your quality of life—factors like your level of pain or your range of motion. In some cases, you can even slow down the degeneration of the joint.

Watch: Degenerative Arthritis Video

Article continues below

The key to controlling these factors is a treatment plan that includes options like physical therapy.

See Osteoarthritis Treatment

The purpose of physical therapy is to maintain mobility, plus strengthen the affected joint(s). In their treatment guidelines, the American College of Rheumatology recommends physical therapy in combination with supervised exercise to manage knee or hip osteoarthritis.1

See Ankylosing Spondylitis Physical Therapy and Exercise

Here are some of the benefits that physical therapy can offer. By working with a therapist, you can:

  • Maintain or increase range of motion. One of the primary goals of physical therapy is to keep you mobile and able to do day-to-day activities with minimal pain and stiffness.
  • Strengthen the muscles that support an arthritic joint. This can take stress off the joint, and is usually done through resistance training or approved forms of exercise.
  • See Strength Training Can Crush Arthritis Pain

  • Learn body awareness, also known as proprioception. Being conscious of your body as you sit, stand, or walk can help you maintain good posture and avoid putting added stress on affected joints.
  • Learn the proper use of assistive devices such as a walker, crutches, splints, or shoe inserts.
  • Find ways to modify your environment so you can do everyday tasks easier during the day and sleep better at night.
  • See 11 Unconventional Tips for Better Sleep

  • Learn the most effective use of pain-relieving therapies such as ice and heat therapy or topical pain medications.
  • See Applying Heat vs. Cold to an Arthritic Joint

Occupational therapy is similar to physical therapy except it’s more goal-oriented toward accomplishing certain tasks. Whereas a physical therapist may want to help you strengthen your knee, an occupational therapist wants to help you get out of bed and get ready in the morning without causing pain or joint damage.

See Understanding Joint Pain

If you’re curious about how physical or occupational therapy can help you better manage your arthritis, talk with your doctor and/or ask for a referral.

See Arthritis Treatment Specialists

Learn more:

How Arthritis Causes Joint Pain

Ways to Get Exercise When You Have Arthritis


  1. American College of Rheumatology 2012 Recommendations for the Use of Nonpharmacologic and Pharmacologic Therapies in Osteoarthritis of the Hand, Hip, and Knee. Arthritis Care & Research. Vol. 64, No. 4, April 2012, pp 465–474. DOI 10.1002/acr.21596