When considering rheumatoid arthritis physio, there are a number of different types of arthritis, but they all are characterised by inflammation of joints. The type of arthritis most people are familiar with is osteoarthritis (OA). OA can occur in one single joint or multiple joints, is typically experienced in older populations and features loss of cartilage. Past trauma may be a contributing factor, but is not always present. By comparison, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune condition. Autoimmune conditions are when the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks its own tissue. In the case of rheumatoid arthritis, the lining of the joint is the target. Eventually most of the joints in the body will become affected if rheumatoid arthritis is present. While the two conditions are quite different, they can both benefit from physiotherapy.
Symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis
- Swollen, sore, warm joints
- Usually the same joints are affected on both sides of the body
- Often stiffest in the morning or after prolonged inactivity (think sitting down for a few hours)
- Typically starts in smaller joints (eg fingers and toes) and progresses to involve larger joints (eg hips, knees, shoulders)
- Periods of ‘flare’ and ‘remission’ – autoimmune conditions often go through waves alternating between being more active, resulting in worse symptoms and then settling down where symptoms may be relative minor
- Over time, the bones can also be affected and result in the joints visibly changing shape
Rheumatoid Arthritis Physio & Treatment
While there is no cure for RA, there are a number of treatments that can help slow the progression of disease and also ease the symptoms. Best management of RA will involve a rheumatologist (doctor specialising in autoimmune and musculoskeletal conditions) as well as physiotherapy. Medical management largely focuses on medication – including drugs to moderate the immune system as well as anti-inflammatories. Physiotherapy can help in a variety of ways. Hands on treatment is targeted at improving range of motion and reducing pain. Exercise prescription is aimed at increasing functional capacity – this can involve a combination of gentle strength exercises and general low impact aerobic exercise such as walking or hydrotherapy. Physio is also important for education and empowering people to understand their condition so that they can self-manage. Self-empowerment is central to Barefoot’s way of treating and is particularly important for long-term conditions like RA. We can help with learning ways to adjust tasks to unload certain joints, how to self-pace exercise and when to rest.
Book in with Barefoot Physiotherapy
If you or someone you know has RA, we would love to help with their management. Book in with Barefoot today by calling us on 1300 842 850 or booking online.