how physiotherapy can help with arthritis
Pain Management

How Physiotherapy can help with Arthritis

How can Physiotherapy help with arthritis?

As we live longer, conditions such as arthritis are becoming more prevalent in our aging society (Arthritis Ireland). As it’s a degenerative condition, it helps to be mindful of it and take steps to make living with arthritis as manageable as possible.

What is arthritis?

There are different types of arthritis. The most common ones that affect the joints causing pain, reduced mobility, inflammation, and loss of function, are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.  

Osteoarthritis is a degenerative condition (wear and tear) that affects the cartilage of the joint. The most common joints affected are load-bearing joints such as the knees and hips. However, osteoarthritis can also quite commonly affect the joints in the hands.

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease. The immune system attacks the cartilage and structures in the joint instead of protecting it. This causes pain, inflammation, loss of movement, and function. The joints most commonly affected are the hands, feet, wrists and shoulders.

How can Physiotherapy help with arthritis?

Physiotherapy can be of huge benefit to those with arthritis by reducing the pain, inflammation, and improving mobility and function. The main components of physiotherapy treatment are education; reassurance and giving advice about what arthritis is, and how to manage it. This includes what to avoid, what to keep doing, and the exercises that can help reduce pain and increase activity levels.

Manual therapy and other treatments can help ease discomfort caused by arthritis but will only have a short-term impact. To reduce pain and increase function in the long-term, it’s important to strengthen the muscles and increase mobility in the joints. It is important to note that arthritis is a degenerative condition. Therefore, it needs to be managed through activity modification and specific physiotherapy exercises.

Which type of exercises are good for arthritis?

The best exercises for arthritis will vary depending on the severity of your arthritis. If you have arthritis in your hips, knees, or ankles, graded as moderate to severe, then it is best to avoid high impact activities such as jogging, jumping, or long walks. The best activities are non-weight-bearing activities like swimming, aqua aerobics, and cycling, to improve your cardiovascular fitness.

If your arthritis is mild to moderate, then longer walks and jogging short distances is advisable. Only do this if it does not increase your pain and cause discomfort during or afterwards. However, as noted earlier, arthritis is a degenerative condition. It is, therefore, best to mix your cardio exercise between jogging and cycling or swimming. Strengthening exercises can also help to take the weight off the joint, making it easier to get about. If you have arthritis in your shoulders and hands the best types of exercise are movement, stretching, and strengthening.

Summary

The main takeaway message with regards to exercise and arthritis is to keep the joint that is arthritic moving. Stretching and strengthening are scientifically proven to help reduce pain and increase function in people who have arthritis. For a tailored approach to managing your arthritis, get in touch with me to book an appointment today.

John Shanahan is a CORU registered Chartered Physiotherapist in Cork.  His clinic, Next Level Physiotherapy Cork is based within MD Clinic on the Watercourse Road in Blackpool. It is just a minute’s walk from the Heineken factory on Leitrim Street. Contact John for any Physiotherapy related issues. He’ll be more than happy to discuss your requirements and start you on the road to recovery.

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