Arthritis is a condition involving inflammation of one or more joints of the body. There are two main types of arthritis – Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis.
This is the most common type of arthritis affecting all kinds of people around the world. It is a chronic condition characterised by the breakdown of the joint’s cartilage and degeneration of the joint surfaces. The breakdown of cartilage causes the bones to rub against each other, causing stiffness, pain and loss of movement in the joint.
Osteoarthritis commonly affects highly used joints in our hands, the spine, hips and knees, but is not limited to these joints.
“Where there is heavy wear there will be tear.”
Thus, good joint movement and muscular control is the starting point to treat and even prevent this condition. It has to be noted that once the underlying process has commenced it cannot be reversed, but can be managed in order to stop further degeneration.
- Stiffness of joints
- Decreases flexibility of muscles
- Crepitus sensation or sounds at the joints
- Bone spurs due to increased friction of the joint surfaces
- The risk of developing Osteoarthritis increases with age
- Women are more susceptible
- Your risk increases if you have a history of joint injuries
- If your occupation requires you to function under repetitive stress of a specific joint. This can be repetitive movement or prolonged sustained positions.
- Your genetics can predispose you.
- Congenital bone deformities.
Can physiotherapy help me if I have osteoarthritis?
Seek medical advice (see your doctor or physiotherapist) when your joint pain or stiffness persists or decreases your enjoyment of life. Osteoarthritis gets worse with time if not attended to and can lead to disability due to the severity of pain and stiffness experienced by the individual.
This is an auto-immune (systemic) disease, meaning it affects the whole body. Its main characteristic is inflammation of the lining of the joints, as it mistakes the body’s healthy tissue as foreign. It can lead to long-term joint damage, resulting in chronic pain, loss of function and disability.
Rheumatoid arthritis commonly affects the smaller joints of the body such as the fingers and hands first. It can also target other joints, the lungs, eyes and heart.
- Multiple joint pain, swelling and stiffness
- Deformed joints
- Mobility and functional loss
- Weight loss
These symptoms are generally found in the same joint on both sides and symptoms come and go. These periods are called remission (symptoms are few/less/gone) and flare (symptoms can be severe).
- Age over 60
- Being female
- Your genetic pre-exposure
- If you have never given birth
- Being overweight
- Having a history of smoking, even second-hand inhalation.
If you suspect that you have these symptoms it is best to seek medical advice from your doctor. If physiotherapy is indicated for your specific form of rheumatoid arthritis make an appointment as soon as you can.
Can physiotherapy help with Rheumatoid Arthritis?
Physiotherapy forms an important part of managing arthritis. It can help one to maintain independence by decreasing pain and improving strength, mobility and flexibility. We can devise simple exercise programmes that you can practise at home to help you build your strength and flexibility.
Other treatment therapies include:
- Posture assessment and correction/retraining
- Soft tissue mobilisation
- Heat therapy
- Other pain relief techniques, and management
- Advice regarding management and daily activities
Whether you are experiencing symptoms of osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis, remember this condition is as diverse as you are unique and self-help is very limited. We advise our patients in pain to seek medical advice in order to get the best management strategies for their health.
A Key Note:
“Research has shown that your X-ray does not tell the full story, you need to put the body’s experience into the picture before taking drastic measures.” – Your physiotherapist can help you with the difficult questions.
Brukner P, Khan K 2012 Brukner & Khan’s Clinical Sports Medicine, 4th ed. McGraw-Hill Australia Pty Ltd, Australia.
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