It’s been a common misconception for decades that arthritis is a condition of old age, but while we certainly become more prone to it as we get older, it’s something that can affect everyone, including children. Luckily, physiotherapy is a highly effective way of managing the condition.
In order to understand how physiotherapy can help in the treatment of arthritis, it’s important to understand how arthritis affects us.
Arthritis is the generic umbrella name we give to a disease that causes inflammation of the joints. It comes from the Greek arthrites, meaning ‘pertaining to the joints’.
There are five separate and distinct forms of arthritis:
- Rheumatoid arthritis – an autoimmune disease which causes the body’s immune system to attack healthy tissue;
- Osteoarthritis – the breakdown of protective cartilage within the joint;
- Psoriatic arthritis – another autoimmune condition that causes inflammation of tendons or ligaments where they attach to the bone
- Fibromyalgia – characterised by widespread pain, this is a condition that is caused when the brain and spinal cord process pain signals differently, leading to increased sensitivity. It can be constant or episodic and is often difficult to diagnose;
- Gout – a form of inflammatory pain which is highly localised. Gout is caused by an overproduction of uric acid, which crystallises in the joint, leading to inflammation.
Often, people who are diagnosed with arthritis don’t fully understand how their condition affects them.
While most GPs will prescribe anti-inflammatory medication to help relieve the painful symptoms of arthritis, not all patients are informed about the other treatments, like physiotherapy, that are available.
How to treat arthritis?
Each type of arthritis will affect people in a different way, and the physiotherapy we offer you will reflect the very specific mechanics of the disease – how it develops and impacts on you specifically – as well as your own individual circumstances.
The treatment your physiotherapist offers to you could be very different to someone else who may be suffering with another unrelated, but limiting or restrictive health condition.
Regardless of whether its physiotherapy for arthritis, physiotherapy for a sports injury or physiotherapy for a temporary and transient condition, like muscle spasm, your treatment and recovery programme should always be highly personalised.
Where arthritis is concerned, the simple benefit of physiotherapy is that it’s a treatment programme that’s designed to get your joints and muscles moving more freely – and movement is the foundation stone on which pain relief is often built.
Joints and muscles will always be more painful when they’re not used frequently. A bit like the stiffness we experience when we’ve been sitting in the same position for a long time, your joints will begin to seize through lack of use, causing more pain.
How is physiotherapy involved?
Physiotherapy helps to extend the mobility of the joints and muscles, and as they become stronger and more mobile, pain usually dissipates.
While we can’t promise a pain-free existence for arthritis sufferers – many of the disease types are progressive, so will worsen over time – physiotherapy can help to mitigate the symptoms and slow the negative impact arthritis has on daily life.
Physiotherapy is also great for exercising the joints and muscles that aren’t affected by your condition, so it has a wider benefit than simply treating arthritic pain.
If you’ve received a formal arthritis diagnosis and you’re struggling with painful joints, make an appointment to see your GP and ask if you can be referred for physiotherapy. While not all GPs will be proactive about referrals, many if not most will refer if asked.
If your GP won’t refer you, most private physiotherapy treatment is affordable and can reap rapid benefits.
If you’d like to speak to us about physiotherapy for arthritis or any other condition – or if you’d just like some advice about other steps you can take to look after yourself – please get in touch.