Physical Therapy and Pathology: Osteoarthritis

Did you know?

  • Osteoarthritis (OA) affects about 3.3% to 3.6% of the population globally and is the most common form of arthritis. 
  • It causes moderate to severe disability in 43 million people, making it the 11th most debilitating disease worldwide. 
  • In the United States, it is estimated that 80% of the population over 65 years old has imaging evidence of OA, although only 60% of them show symptoms.
  • In 2011, there were almost 1 million Americans hospitalizations for OA, with an total cost of nearly $15 billion, making OA the second most expensive disease seen in the United States.
  • OA is more common in females than males.

But what is OA?

There are 2 main types of osteoarthritis: primary and secondary. Primary is usually more common in people 55+ and is due to ‘wear and tear’ over years. Secondary is found in younger individuals and is usually caused by previous injuries, obesity, inactivity, genetics and/or inflammatory diseases and conditions. Despite their different causes, both forms of OA involve the breakdown of cartilage in joints, which causes bones to rub together. This causes the symptoms usually associated with such as pain, swelling and stiffness.

People who are dealing with OA will report pain deep in the joints which can vary in type from sharp to dull. People will usually experience stiffness, limited range of motion, abnormal sounds in their joints with movement and  possible swelling of a joint. 

OA is usually diagnosed by imaging such as X-rays or MRIs. In addition to medications, OA is treated and managed by physical therapy.

So what can your physical therapist do for you?

Pain from OA can decrease muscle strength, decrease flexibility and cause weight gain over time. These impairments ultimately cause limitation in the ability to participate in recreational as well as activities of daily living. However, physical can help manage and lessen impairments due to OA.

Physical therapy can help increase joint motion, muscle strength, aerobic capacity and even changes in body weight. Physical therapy can reduce pain by strengthening the muscles and putting less strain on the joints. A 2020 study concludes that physical therapy is actually more effective than injections for knee OA. In older populations, physical therapy has significantly reduced incidents of fall by working on balance, modifying everyday activities and fall prevention strategies. Physical therapy can help improve not only physical, but also psychological function of those with OA.

Contact Us!

If you are or someone you know has OA and you’d like to learn more about how physical therapy can help OA, give us a call today! New Jersey has direct access which m

eans you can come see us without seeing your doctor! We can see you quicker than you could get in to see the doctor, while also saving you both time and money!  

Please, call us to schedule your evaluation at one of BeneFIT’s locations, Bridgewater (908.203.5200) or Chester 

(908.879.5700)  with one of our highly trained Doctors of Physical Therapy!

Sen R, Hurley JA. Osteoarthritis. [Updated 2021 Feb 27]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2021 Jan-. Available from:

Chen, D., Shen, J., Zhao, W., Wang, T., Han, L., Hamilton, J. L., & Im, H. J. (2017). Osteoarthritis: toward a comprehensive understanding of pathological mechanism. Bone research5, 16044.