Managing Gout with Physical Therapy
Do you have terrible pain in your big toe, ankles, knees, elbows, wrists, or fingers? You may be experiencing symptoms of gout. The pain from gout can be so severe that even the slightest movement or touch can be excruciating. Our physical therapy plans can help.
Symptoms of Gout
Gout is characterized by sudden, intense pain, swelling, and redness in the joints.In addition to joint pain and inflammation, gout may cause fever, chills, and a general feeling of malaise.
In some cases, gout may cause tophi, which are small, firm lumps that can develop under your skin, near the affected joint. Tophi are caused by the accumulation of uric acid crystals and can be a sign of advanced gout.
Left untreated, gout can lead to chronic pain and joint damage, so it’s important to seek medical attention if you experience gout symptoms.
Causes of Gout
Gout is a type of arthritis caused by the buildup of uric acid crystals in the joints.The excess uric acid can form sharp crystals that deposit in and around the joints, causing inflammation, pain, and stiffness.
The causes of gout can vary, but most cases are related to an overproduction of uric acid. This can be affected by a number of factors, including a diet high in purines (such as red meat, seafood, and alcohol), certain medical conditions (such as kidney disease or hypothyroidism), and certain medications (such as diuretics).
Other risk factors include obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, and a family history of gout.
Age, Gender, and Ethnicity are Risk Factors for Gout
Gender and age are also significant risk factors for gout. Men are more likely to develop gout than women, and the condition is most commonly seen in men over the age of 40. However, women can develop gout as well, particularly after menopause. Additionally, certain ethnicities, such as Pacific Islanders and Indigenous Americans, are more likely to develop gout than others.
Diagnosing gout typically involves taking a physical exam, medical history, and lab tests. During your exam, a healthcare provider may look for signs of inflammation—such as redness, warmth, and swelling in the affected joint. They may also when the pain started and whether you have a history of gout or other medical conditions.
Lab tests can also be used to diagnose gout. This typically involves taking a sample of fluid from the affected joint and examining it for the presence of uric acid crystals. Blood tests can also be used to measure the level of uric acid in your bloodstream.
A higher-than-normal level of uric acid can be a sign of gout, although it’s important to note that some people with gout may have normal levels of uric acid, while others may have high levels but never experience gout symptoms. In some cases, imaging tests such as X-rays or ultrasound may be used to assess joint damage and rule out other conditions that may cause similar symptoms.
Physical Therapy for Gout
Physical therapy can be an effective treatment option for gout, as it can help reduce pain and inflammation while also improving joint mobility and strength.
At Med1Care, our physical therapists may use a variety of techniques and exercises to treat gout, including range of motion exercises, strength training, and manual therapy techniques, including joint mobilization and massage. These interventions can help reduce your pain and stiffness and promote better joint function and mobility.
In addition to our traditional physical therapy techniques, your treatment plan may include heat or ice therapy to reduce pain and inflammation and ultrasound or electrical stimulation to promote tissue healing and reduce your pain.
Exercises for Gout
Med1Care physical therapists may advise range of motion, strengthening, and low-impact aerobic exercises for gout.
Range of Motion Exercises
Range of motion exercises can help improve joint mobility and reduce stiffness. This may include ankle circles, wrist rotations, and shoulder shrugs, which involve moving the joint through its full range of motion. Range of motion exercises can be performed daily and done sitting or standing.
Strengthening exercises can help improve joint stability and reduce the risk of future gout flare-ups. These exercises can include leg lifts, bicep curls, and shoulder presses, which involve using resistance bands or weights to build strength in the muscles surrounding the affected joint. Strengthening exercises can be performed 2-3 times per week, with a day of rest in between.
Low-Impact Aerobic Exercises
Low-impact aerobic exercises, such as walking, cycling, or swimming, can help improve cardiovascular health while also promoting joint health and reducing gout symptoms. These exercises are less stressful on the joints than high-impact activities, such as running or jumping. Low-impact aerobic exercises can be performed for 30 minutes, 3-5 times per week, depending on your level of fitness.
Gout cannot be cured, but it can be effectively managed with a combination of medication, lifestyle changes, and physical therapy. The goal of treatment is to reduce pain and inflammation during flare-ups, prevent future flare-ups, and slow the progression of joint damage over time.
Medical providers may suggest medications for gout such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), colchicine, and corticosteroids to reduce pain and inflammation during gout attacks. Long-term medication such as allopurinol and febuxostat may also be advised to lower uric acid levels in the bloodstream, which can help prevent future gout flare-ups.
In addition to medication, lifestyle changes such as maintaining a healthy diet, staying hydrated, and engaging in regular exercise can help reduce gout symptoms. With proper management, many people with gout are able to lead healthy, active lives with minimal symptoms.
Eating to Manage Gout Symptoms
Diet plays a significant role in managing gout symptoms. Gout can be exacerbated by foods that are high in purines, including red meat, organ meats (such as liver and kidney), shellfish, and certain types of fish (such as sardines and anchovies). Alcohol, particularly beer, can also increase uric acid levels in the bloodstream. We suggest limiting or avoiding foods high in purines to help manage your symptoms.
On the other hand, some foods have been shown to help reduce the risk of gout flare-ups. These include low-fat dairy products, such as milk, yogurt, and cheese, which can reduce uric acid levels in the bloodstream. Cherries and other types of berries may also be beneficial, as they contain compounds that help to reduce inflammation. Drinking plenty of water can also be helpful to flush excess uric acid from the bloodstream.
Get Started with Med1Care Physical Therapy
At Med1Care Therapy Partners, we are committed to helping you find relief. We regularly treat gout using exercises, stretching techniques, manual therapy, and other interventions. With our expertise in physical rehabilitation, combined with an understanding of your unique needs, we can help you manage your symptoms.
We’ll partner with your healthcare team to help you build a unique treatment plan to improve your movement and function with specialized exercises and education on low impact ways to manage daily living, relieve pain, and reduce flare ups.
Call us at 419.866.0555 to schedule a free consultation.
Our specialists will help you chart a course forward.