Arthritis is a general term given to a group of conditions that affect the joints in our body. 1 in 6 Australian’s have some form of Arthritis, & 60% of all people with arthritis are of working age (between 15 & 60 years old).
The three main types of arthritis are Osteoarthritis, Rheumatoid Arthritis & Gout.
Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis, & is sometimes called degenerative joint disease or joint “wear & tear”. It involves a wearing down of the cartilage that covers & cushions the inside of the joints, leading to pain, weakness & reduced movement.
Rheumatoid Arthritis is a systemic disease where the immune system attacks the joints. It is a disabling & painful inflammatory condition, which leads to joint destruction, pain & often a substantial loss of mobility.
Gout is a disease where a waste product (uric acid) is deposited in the cartilage of a joint, causing an inflammatory reaction. It leads to pain, swelling, redness, warmness & stiffness in the affected joint. The big toe is most commonly affected, but it can also occur in the elbow, ankle, knee & other joints.
Most people will develop some degree of osteoarthritis as they get older. Some may be completely symptom-free, some will have intermittent/mild pain when they are very active, or with sudden forceful movements, & others will have constant, severe pain that may require surgery.
In general, symptoms of osteoarthritis may include:
- Recurring pain in the joints (can be worse at the end of the day if the joints have been overused)
- Joint stiffness, especially in morning
- Clicking/crackling noise when the affected joint is moved
Some factors that may contribute to the development of osteoarthritis include:
- Injury – when ligaments are damaged, the stability of a joint is compromised. This may lead to wearing down of the cartilage as the distribution of the force through the joint changes
- Prolonged posture
- Overuse of joints
- Being overweight
Whilst there is no known cure for Osteoarthritis, there are ways of managing the condition to make your life easier. Physiotherapy can play an important part.
What can Physiotherapy do for you?
Through passive joint mobilisation, the use of heat & electrotherapy, massage, education/advice & exercises, Physiotherapy can help to:
- Reduce pain
- Improve range of movement
- Improve posture
- Strengthen muscles
- Improve function
- Treat any factors that may be exacerbating the problem
What can you do for yourself?
To help manage your condition yourself, you should avoid over-stressing your joints by:
- Avoiding jerky sudden movements
- Limit/use good technique when lifting
- Watching your weight
- Not overdoing activity/exercise
Gentle regular exercise is recommended. You can try walking, swimming, cycling or exercising in water. But if your joints become red, hot or swollen it is important to rest.