How physio can help with arthritis

Michael McCreight

August 30, 2021

What else is physiotherapy good for?

Did you know that over 350 million people in the world have arthritis? In the United States and Canada, it accounts for the leading cause of disability.

Arthritis ranks higher than other chronic issues such as heart disease and diabetes. In an age that deals with multiple chronic issues, these statistics show how detrimental arthritis is.

Are you one of the 350 million people that have arthritis? It may seem like a daily challenge in managing your symptoms.

Physiotherapists can help with arthritis management and pain. If you have an interest in learning more about physio, then keep reading.

What is physiotherapy?

Physiotherapy is a type of therapy that addresses various illnesses, injuries, or disabilities. These qualified health care practitioners require completion of undergraduate training first. Then, they go on to a physiotherapist school.

Most facilities require physiotherapists to pass a national competency exam after graduate school.

You can find physiotherapists in a variety of settings. These include schools, hospitals, outpatient facilities, and home care. They use skilled assessments and treatments in their plan.

Physiotherapists are known for using detailed treatments for movement disorders. They can improve, maintain, or restore prior strength and function. A physiotherapist also works towards treating underlying problems.

Therapy is becoming an integral part of the health care system. Physiotherapists work hand-in-hand with other practitioners and therapists.

What types of conditions can it help with?

Musculoskeletal conditions are common diagnoses that physiotherapists treat. These include issues such as joint or muscle pain. They also address swelling and stiffness that happen with injuries.

Neck and back pain are some of the largest areas that outpatient physiotherapists treat. Sometimes, poor posture or prior injuries lead to chronic pain.

However, physiotherapists also treat a range of conditions and their effects on the body. Some common diagnoses that physiotherapists see in the clinic include:

  • Arthritis
  • Asthma
  • Heart conditions
  • Bowel and bladder problems
  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Cancer
  • Vertigo

Most of the time, treatments are focused on the debilitating effects of these diseases. For example, spinal cord injuries result in loss of movement. Sometimes, there are pain and positioning concerns.

Physiotherapists work towards reducing these problems. They might instruct on exercises, perform stretching, or perform skin pressure relief.

Education is a critical component of a physiotherapists’ job. You can often find physiotherapists educating patients in the clinic.

This education might be on proper form, pain management strategies, and lifestyle changes. The goal of these therapy sessions is for long-term improvements.

Can it help with my arthritis?

Yes, physiotherapy can help with arthritis. There are many different types of arthritis, and some require different treatment plans. In general, there are three common types of arthritis that physiotherapists see, including:

  • Osteoarthritis
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Psoriatic arthritis

Osteoarthritis is arguably one of the most common forms. Cartilage is a type of tissue that lines joints. It provides a cushioning effect and helps lubricate the joints, which keeps them moving smoothly and pain-free.

As people age, they are more at risk of that cartilage wearing down. Heavy use and past injuries also contribute to arthritis.

Once the cartilage is worn down, you have what is called “bone-on-bone.” Many practitioners use this description for highlighting what is happening in your joints.

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease. The body turns on itself, attacking your joints. Rheumatoid arthritis symptoms include high levels of inflammation, pain, immobility, and joint deformities.

It is common to see arthritis in hands and deformities with those who have rheumatoid arthritis. Psoriatic arthritis is another form of arthritis. It typically transitions from skin problems to joint issues.

Physiotherapists focus on pain management and improving mobility. In return, this helps with many of the side effects of arthritis, such as stiffness, pain, and immobility.

Is physio better than other therapies when it comes to arthritis?

Physiotherapy often works hand-in-hand with other therapies like occupational therapy. Acupuncture treatments may also be beneficial for patients who have arthritis.

Occupational therapy works towards addressing someone’s daily habits of living. These include things such as dressing, grooming, hygiene, and returning to work.

Medication is another form of treatment for arthritis. A recent study examined those who underwent physiotherapy sessions or injections.

Practitioners used intraarticular glucocorticoid injection for pain management. After one year, those who attended physiotherapy had less pain and disability.

What physio for arthritis entails

A physiotherapy session for arthritis can include exercises, manual therapy, massage, and modalities. The type of therapy one receives a close assessment from a physiotherapist.

Additionally, a physiotherapist can advise on adaptive equipment and home modifications. One study looked at patients suffering from rheumatoid arthritis. These patients received physiotherapy and occupational therapy.

They found that both therapies reduced pain. Another study looked at exercise and physiotherapy sessions for managing their symptoms. They found that both exercise and physiotherapy helped reduce pain and fatigue.

Specific therapies that are often used

Aquatic therapy is beneficial for patients with arthritis in the knee. The heat and buoyancy of the water allow for an environment that is less painful than other techniques.

Contrary to popular belief, movement is essential in managing arthritic symptoms. In the water, physiotherapists can walk patients through various stretches and exercises. Modalities such as TENS units and electrotherapy can also help in reducing pain.

Physiotherapists encourage as much movement within a safe and controlled environment.

At-home recommendations

Following your physiotherapy regime at home can be challenging. Before getting started at home, discuss exercises and activities you can safely do at home with your physiotherapist. Most times, simple aerobic activities such as walking, biking, or swimming are helpful.

Next, set aside time each day to work on them. You may need to rearrange some furniture in your house so that you have room for exercising. Make sure you set goals for yourself and go easy on yourself.

Progress doesn’t happen all at once. Additionally, if you ever have any setbacks or concerns, reach back out to your physiotherapist.

Live your life

Arthritis can cause many debilitating effects. If you struggle to get back on your feet each day because of pain and stiffness, don’t wait any longer.

Our skilled physiotherapists use safe and effective therapy techniques for managing arthritis. Contact us today and schedule your next appointment.

Michael McCreight, Registered Physiotherapist

August 30, 2021

Mike is an experienced and talented physiotherapist who holds a BSc in human kinetics and an MSc in physiotherapy. He doesn't believe in a “one-size-fits-all” approach and is committed to providing client-centred care, tailoring each treatment plan to each patient’s unique needs and personal goals.