Can Physiotherapy Help Arthritis?

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I am often asked can physiotherapy help arthritis. My physiotherapy treatments focus on establishing the mobility and functioning of affected body parts by utilising various techniques. These can include manual “hands-on” therapy, electrotherapy, acupuncture and hydrotherapy along with advice and counselling to my patients.

What is Arthritis?

Arthritis affects the joints connecting the bones. It can manifest itself as both chronic or acute forms and can create inflammation of the joints. Common symptoms include pain, stiffness, and discomfort during mobility.

There are two main forms of arthritis:

  1. Osteoarthritis which affects the cartilage at the end of the bones, the cartilage breaks down causing pain, swelling and problems moving the joint.
  2. Rheumatoid arthritis which is an “autoimmune” disease, this form occurs when the body’s immune system attacks its own joints causing joint inflammation and pain. Rheumatoid arthritis sometime causes problems in other parts of the body including the eyes, heart and circulatory system and / or lungs.

As a physiotherapist, I’m a skilled professional who assists in reducing pain and strengthening affected joints by using various therapies.

Osteoarthritis affects many areas of the body including knees, hips, spine and fingers. Physiotherapy is recommended for patients suffering from symptomatic arthritis to improve function and reduce pain.

Rheumatoid arthritis symptoms vary from person to person. They may change over time with symptoms coming and going.  Rheumatoid arthritis can affect any joint of the body although the small joints of the hands and feet are often affected first.  Joint pain is usually throbbing and aching in nature and tends to be worse in the morning or after inactivity. Joints may become swollen, hot and tender to touch. As well as affecting the joints many people suffering with Rheumatoid arthritis experience general symptoms including tiredness/lack of energy; high temperature; sweating; poor appetite; dry eyes and weight loss.

Can Physiotherapy Help Arthritis?

If a client visits me to find out if physiotherapy can help arthritis, I perform a full assessment prior to performing any treatment or giving advice. This assessment takes the form of questioning my patient to ascertain all the issues associated with their arthritis and any additional medical or social issues they may have including listing any medications they may be taking. I will then physically examine my patient to evaluate functions such as gait/walking pattern, range of joint motion, posture, muscle strength, activities of daily life and respiratory function.

Treatment modalities used by physiotherapists to treat osteoarthritis include:

  • Exercise therapy – stretches and strengthening programmes
  • Soft tissue massage
  • Electrotherapy including ultrasound, interferential and laser
  • Provision of walking aids and other physical aids to enable functional activities of daily living.
  • Hydrotherapy
  • Weight management
  • Education regarding avoidance overloading joints e.g., avoiding carrying heavy loads or doing certain activities

Treatment modalities used by physiotherapists to treat Rheumatoid Arthritis include:

  • Hydrotherapy
  • Hot/Cold therapies
  • Gentle strengthening and mobilising programmes
  • TENS – Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation, used to alleviate pain.
  • Education regarding protection of joints
  • Splinting of affected joints if necessary, use of compression gloves

People suffering from both Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis can gain immense relief from physiotherapy. Continual developments are being achieved around physiotherapy improving the quality of life with patients affected with arthritis.

If you are in pain and would like to find out how physiotherapy helps arthritis, then please get in touch.


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