1 in 5 Australians suffer from the debilitating condition of arthritis. This is 18% of the population or 3.85 million people (Source: Arthritis NSW) Arthritis, a condition that leads to the inflammation of joints, and can affect almost any joint in the human body.
Being one of the leading causes of disability in the world, there are more than 100 types of arthritis. Symptoms can include pain, joint swelling, stiffness, and reduced ability to move, even leading to deformity.
One of the most challenging aspects of arthritis is that symptoms may fluctuate and can be influenced by various factors such as activity, weather, and even diet. Managing arthritis can be a long-term challenge. Physiotherapy can help with this significantly and make things a bit easier to tackle. Read on to find out how.
What is Physiotherapy Treatment Used For
Physiotherapy is a type of therapy that helps improve the general strength and fitness of muscles. This in turn helps to manage pain and restore or improve function in various parts of the body affected by arthritis.
Physios specialise in assessing movements and can help guide you on how to protect your joints and keep mobility. They can also help you by setting appropriate goals to stay active and following through on them with proper exercise and techniques.
How Can Physios Help You Manage Arthritis
Physiotherapists specialise in diagnosing and treating joint and muscle problems, and they start treatment by making a thorough assessment of the issue. This is done through a combo of asking questions from the patients as well as physically examining the areas that you find painful. This initial assessment allows the physio to recommend a treatment plan which is tailored to your unique needs. This plan may include:
• a programme of specific exercises
• general advice on increasing activity levels and avoiding exercise- related injuries
• pain-relief treatments such as heat or ice packs, TENS (transcutaneous
electrical nerve stimulation), massage, manipulation, acupuncture etc
• providing walking aids or splints to help maintain mobility and independence.
While medications certainly help with arthritis, the strategies advised by physiotherapists can help increase the impact and work alongside your medications.
Techniques that Physiotherapists Can Use to Help You
Physios can help you create a progressive plan of regular, graded exercise. These exercises start slowly and increase in small steps. During this, the patient experiences strengthening of the muscles and joints and an uplift in fitness levels.
One of the biggest benefits that come about during this process is development of fitness and stamina. Patients are able to increase their levels of activity without increasing your pain. Regular exercise will also stimulate production of your body’s own natural pain-relieving hormones (endorphins). A physiotherapist may also recommend various pain-relief treatments.
Treating Pain with Hot and Cold
• Ice packs are used to soothe hot, swollen joints.
• Heat packs enable relaxation of tense and tired muscles.
• Splinting of swollen or painful joints may be helpful, for example during
a flare-up of rheumatoid arthritis.
TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation)
This technique works by blocking pain messages to the brain and altering your perception of pain. A TENS machine is a small electronic device that sends pulses to the nerve endings via pads placed on the skin. This causes a tingling sensation that many people find soothing.
This technique involves a variety of exercises that take place in water. Usually this will take the form of physical activity in a warm, shallow swimming pool or a special hydrotherapy bath. It helps improve mobility, relieve discomfort and promote recovery from injury.
A: Use HealthEngine to find and book your next Physiotherapist appointment. Click on the following locations to find a Physiotherapy clinic in your state or territory.
This article is for informational purposes only and should not be taken as medical advice. If in doubt, HealthEngine recommends consulting with a registered health practitioner.