Osteoarthritis & Rheumatoid Arthritis

There are many different forms of arthritis, however the two most common forms are Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid arthritis.

What is it?

We will start by looking at normal joint anatomy. A joint is formed where two bones meet, allowing movement. The 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 which 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 load, such as the hip and knee, but also the thumb, big toe, neck and back. Osteoarthritis can also occur in joints that have previously been injured or damaged.

Rheumatoid arthritis causes an 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. With this type of arthritis you can have repeated flare-ups, and with each flare-up more damage is done to the joint. The condition usually starts slowly, affecting fingers, wrists and the balls of your feet first.

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
  • Anaemia
  • Flu-like symptoms, such as feeling generally ill, feeling hot and sweating

Can we help?

Yes. Our bodies are designed for movement and lack of movement quickly compounds the pain and damage of the condition. By addressing the strength of the muscles that support the affected joint and by mobilising and stretching the stiff, tight joint, and addressing any biomechanical factors pain can be alleviated.

Our physiotherapists can provide a thorough assessment, design a strengthening program, and help to address joint stiffness. They can also advise you on how to pace your activities so that you don’t overdo things, and learn how to recognise when rest is advisable. They can also provide acupuncture which has been shown to be a highly effective treatment option for osteoarthritis.

Although physiotherapy cannot change the disease process it is better than any tablet or medicine in putting you back in charge of your body. It will provide you with the input to help restore physical function and create the best environment to maintain strong muscular and cardiovascular fitness.

Our biomechanical podiatrists can determine if there is excess stress being placed on joints by poor general posture, especially 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 Pilates classes can also be an effective way of building muscle strength and flexibility to keep you moving, active and healthy.