by Allison Garmager, PT, DPT
Do you or someone you know have a diagnosis of an autoimmune disease? According to the American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association (AARDA), about 50 million Americans have an autoimmune disease. There are a wide variety of autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, myositis, multiple sclerosis, and lupus. Although those listed may be some of the autoimmune diseases you are familiar with, there are many other categories of these disorders which stem from pathology of the immune system.
These autoimmune diseases can cause a wide variety of symptoms, some of which are musculoskeletal in nature and can be treated with physical therapy. For example, people with rheumatoid arthritis often experience joint pain due to inflammatory processes. Individuals with multiple sclerosis may experience difficulty with ambulation, along with other mobility impairments. People with myositis often experience progressive weakness, leading to challenges in performing their daily activities. Each autoimmune disease has unique features, just as each individual’s diagnosis brings unique symptoms.
It is usually beneficial if each person is treated with a multifactorial approach. Many members of the healthcare team, such as physicians, physical therapists, occupational therapists, and dietitians can work together to improve health, function, and overall wellbeing. Early treatment is beneficial to select appropriate resources to manage changes in their health and function over time.
How can a physical therapist help with treatment of an autoimmune disease? As physical therapists, our primary focus is on function and mobility. We can utilize manual therapy to decrease muscle tension, improve mobility, and facilitate a reduction in pain. We can also assist patients in improving their strength, resulting in the ability to perform daily activities with greater ease. Gait training from a physical therapist can make walking easier and safer, and it may include instruction in the use of an assistive device, such as a cane or walker. Each physical therapy treatment is individualized and will be tailored to the specific challenges and needs of each person.
If you or someone you know has symptoms of or a diagnosis of an autoimmune disease, there would probably be great benefit from a consultation with a physical therapist. At Kinetic Edge Physical Therapy, we transform lives through movement. Contact us anytime to request an appointment or with questions!