One of the major complaints in patients seeking the help of a physiotherapist is arthritis.
There are over 100 types of arthritis, but only two types are most common - rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and osteoarthritis (OA). Osteoarthritis, the more prevalent type, is a degenerative disease that leads to pain, swelling and stiffness of the joint, as the cartilage wears down and the cushioning between the bones is removed. The most common joints affected are the knees, hips, fingers, neck and back.
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease, meaning the body attacks its own immune system causing pain, swelling, muscle weakness and deformity.
Treatment for osteoarthritis is aimed at slowing the progression of the disease and decreasing the pain. Initially gentle manual therapy techniques and changes to everyday movement patterns, ,such as how you sit, stand up , walk, bend or lift, can decrease the unbalanced forces which are stressing the joint.
Specific muscle weakness or tension must also be addressed. Frequently the muscles which stabilize the joint have become weak and specific strengthening exercises will help to protect the joint from further deterioration.
We will train you to perform activities of daily living without putting too much stress on the joints. This will also change the muscle activity around the joint and enable you to be strengthening muscles even when you are not 'exercising'
Topical analgesics such as creams, gels and other ointments may be helpful. NSAIDS like ibuprofen and Advil are commonly prescribed. Surgery may be the only option in severe cases.
General exercise is recommended when flare-ups are not present. Walking is usually a good form of exercise as well as exercises such as yoga and tai chi. In recent times aqua therapy has gained some notice as a means of reducing joint pain and this may be recommended.
Rheumatoid arthritis, treatment may centre around medications and treatments that calm the body's immune system and reduce inflammation. Rest, exercise and splinting may also aid the benefits of these procedures.
In many cases specific exercises, aimed at decreasing the load on the joint will improve strength and function. Manual techniques administered by a trained physiotherapist may improve the ability to exercise without stressing the joint.
There is no known cure for either type of arthritis, however new research into the reasons behind arthritis is bringing hope and relief to many arthritis sufferers.
Bromelain and glucosamine and chondroitin are proven to assist in cartilage repair in osteoarthritis and relieve the pain of rheumatoid arthritis.
With this and other advice given by your doctor and physiotherapist, the arthritis sufferer can learn to live a more active and comfortable life with a disease that could otherwise be crippling.