The two most common forms are Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid arthritis.
What is it?
A joint is formed where two bones meet and these bones are covered in an outer layer of cartilage which is smooth and creates a slippery surface allowing the bones to move against each other. The joint is surrounded by a structure called the synovium, which produces a small amount of fluid that lubricates and nourishes the joint.
Osteoarthritis affects the cartilage, which wears away and becomes thin and rough. The bone can then respond trying to repair the problem but can overgrow as a result, altering the shape of the joint. This type of arthritis most commonly affects joints under heavy loads, such as the hip and knee, but also the thumb, big toe, neck, ankle, shoulder and back. Osteoarthritis can also occur in joints that have previously been injured or damaged.
Rheumatoid arthritis causes inflammation of the synovium, which becomes red, warm, and swells. When this inflammation goes down the capsule remains stretched which affects the stability within the joint. The condition usually starts slowly, affecting fingers, wrists and the balls of your feet most commonly and progressively gets worse. This arthiritis is systemic and commonly affects multiple joints.
What are the symptoms?
Common symptoms of osteoarthritis include:
- Joint pain and swelling (usually intermittent with good days and bad days)
- Stiffness, especially first thing in the morning
- A grating or grinding sensation
Common symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis include:
- Joint pain, swelling, and stiffness
- Tiredness, depression, irritability
- Flu-like symptoms, such as feeling generally ill, feeling hot and sweating
Can we help?
Yes. Although physiotherapy cannot change the structural change in the joint, it can provide you with the knowledge and treatment to manage the condition effectively. Our bodies are designed for movement and lack of movement quickly compounds the pain and creates a larger impact of the condition so being guided on how to get moving with reduced pain is essential.
There are various ways we can help including addressing symptoms with hands on treatment, focussing on strength of the muscles surrounding the joint to provide further support and reduce stiffness and finally identifying any biomechanical factors can might be contributing to the pain.
Our Physiotherapists can provide a thorough assessment, advise you on how to pace your activities, provide joint mobilisation, mobility exercises, massage, acupuncture, ultrasound and tape the joint based on your symptoms and what is appropriate for yourself.
Our Biomechanical Podiatrists can determine if there is excess stress being placed on joints by altered foot posture. This can be rectified with orthotics if necessary. A biomechanist can also advise on appropriate footwear.
Our Massage therapists can also help with general relaxation, as well as aiding in improving muscle length, which will help to unload the affected joint and reduce pain.
Our Rehab therapists can create a bespoke plan for you to address any joint stiffness and help build strength in the muscles that support that joint and in turn reduce your symptoms. This plan will be made for you based on your condition level and the demands of the joint.
Our Pilates classes can also be an effective way of building and maintaining muscle strength and flexibility to keep you moving, active and healthy. This is a great way to help manage and reduce future flare ups when things have settled down.