What is Arthritis?
Arthritis is the result of “wear and tear” to our joints over time and is a major cause of chronic pain and disability in Australia. It occurs most often in your weight bearing joints (knees, hips, and lower back), however the finger joints are also susceptible to developing this condition due to our reliance on using our hands in everyday life.
Arthritis can occur at any age but tends to be more common in people aged over 40 and those who have previously had joint injuries.
There is not cure, however physiotherapy is proven to be an effective way of managing Arthritis, by working to control the symptoms, strengthen the supporting musculature around joints, improve your quality of life and avoid joint replacement surgeries.
Signs & Symptoms
- Joint pain and tenderness
- Swelling, redness or heat in the joint
- Stiffness, particularly in the mornings
- Clicking or grinding noises are common
- Difficulty with moving the joint
- Constant pain and joint deformity as severity worsens
What causes it?
As Arthritis affects many joints over the body it is difficult to identify one specific cause of the condition, however research shows some things which may put you at more risk of developing Arthritis. These include:
- Previous injury to the joint
- Jobs involving manual labour
- Being overweight
- A family history of Arthritis
What can you do at home?
Arthritis is often though about as an issue that you can't change, and although once a joint has had the wear and tear which can never be undone, there is plenty you can do to control and calm your pain, and avoid it from getting worse. The avoidance of the condition getting worse should be your ultimate goal, as this will help you avoid needing a joint replacement surgery.
When a joint is symptomatic, it is typically associated with inflammation through the joint, so you can certainly apply the RICER principle.
- Rest (unloading the joint and giving it a bit of a rest is a good idea, but complete avoidance of the joint is not advisable, you must try and keep it moving gently)
- Ice (apply ice to it regularly to minimise any swelling)
- Compression (if the joint is really swollen, it may benefit from a compression bandage to help reduce the swelling, give the joint a feeling of support, and help you keep moving it)
- Elevate (this is obviously much easier if it is a joint in your lower body like your knee. It will help decrease the swelling and increase comfort when moving)
- Refer yourself (go and see your physiotherapist as soon as possible, you don't need a referral from a doctor)
You would also do very well to gently keep the joint moving, as complete rest of a joint is not a good idea. It can reduce it's range of movement and cause it to be even more painful during use. You should try and keep it moving while you are going through a flare, and then when it has started to calm down you should get it moving even more and then either start some strength exercises for the muscles around the joint to prevent the joint from getting worse.
A great way to get the joint moving and get some strength work done is to find a pool and do some 'hydrotherapy', which can be as simple as walking some laps, doing squats/lunges and some balancing exercises while in water. This is a great way to get the joint moving and begin the strengthening process. As mentioned above, it is of paramount importance that you keep your arthritis from getting worse if possible, and you should seek out your physiotherapist for guidance immediately. They will assist you with a long term plan to help with pain relief and strengthening the joint. And if the joint is bad enough that it does eventually need replacing, your physio will provide you with invaluable guidance that can make the entire (difficult) journey of a joint replacement easier.
How can we help?
- Soft Tissue Massage to relieve pain and muscle tension.
- Acupuncture / Dry Needling to decrease pain and release painful trigger points. This can be combined with Electrotherapy for enhance pain relief if needed.
- Joint Mobilisations / Manipulations (Adjustments) to improve joint movement.
- Supports & Braces to decrease pain with aggravating activities.
- Strengthening exercises to help support the painful joint.
- Education & Advice about how to relieve pain and avoid aggravating the arthritic joint.
- Long term treatment goals and guidance towards keeping your joints strong, supported, and maintaining as much function as possible, which will enable you to know how to deal with your arthritis in the long term.
If this affects you, and your sore joints are becoming more painful and starting to let you down, you should act immediately. Are you worried you will soon have to give up the things you enjoy most in life? Research shows that physiotherapy is proven to be an effective way of managing Arthritis.
See an expert at Swan Physiotherapy now and take back control of your life!!!
If you are in pain and need to get this fixed ASAP…book online now!