Why People With Lupus Need Physical Therapy
Physical therapy should reduce your pain and inflammation, help you feel less stiff and keep you mobile. Those who have been newly diagnosed with Lupus may find themselves shocked at first, possibly relieved if they had envisioned something terrible, and finally confused. Not only is the diagnosis challenging—with many people initially misdiagnosed—but the treatments vary significantly from one person to the next. Lupus has been coined a “snowflake,” describing how no two people with the condition are exactly alike. But in almost all circumstances, physical therapy can be VERY helpful with your symptoms.
Reduce Pain and Stiffness
Physical therapy (PT) is an important and effective way to deal with one of the primary symptoms of lupus: joint pain and arthritis. If you suffer from systemic lupus erythematous (SLE), you may work with a physical therapist to help restore your physical function, improve your mobility, relieve your pain, and prevent or limit any permanent physical disability.
What Happens During Physical Therapy
The overall goal of your physical therapy will be to restore, maintain and promote your musculoskeletal fitness and health. Physical therapy should reduce your pain and inflammation, help you feel less stiff and keep you mobile.
After examining your medical history, the physical therapist will test your:
- range of motion
- balance and coordination
- muscle performance
- motor function
Based on these tests, the therapist will develop a customized treatment plan to help you overcome physical obstacles from the disease.
Physical therapy treatment for lupus often includes exercise to increase flexibility and range of motion. As you continue with your therapy, more advanced exercises will also focus on improving:
Some of your physical therapy may take place in a pool. The water is a great place to exercise inflamed joints because it’s buoyant and soothing.
Your physical therapist can also help you learn how to best use a cane or a walker if they are needed.
Aerobic Exercise and Lupus
Some of the exercises you do in physical therapy might be aerobic, especially if your lupus is relatively mild. People with lupus tend to exercise less and have lower endurance than people who do not have the health condition. Aerobic exercise has been shown to help people with mild lupus improve aerobic capacity and feel less fatigued. It may also help to improve blood vessel function.
Physical Therapy and Pain
If you have pain after your physical therapy session that lasts more than 1 to 1.5 hours, talk to your physical therapist. He or she should adjust your exercises to make them less intense and/or shorter in duration.
Other Techniques Physical Therapists Use With Lupus Patients
Electrical stimulation, hot packs or cold compresses and ultrasound may be used to relieve pain and reduce swelling.
Massage therapy can relieve pain and improve circulation and flexibility.
How to Choose a Physical Therapist
Licensed physical therapists should have a master’s degree from an accredited physical therapy program. Physical therapists study biology, chemistry, and physics, as well as biomechanics, neuroanatomy, human growth and development, manifestations of disease, examination techniques, and therapeutic procedures.
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