Did you know that approximately 1 in 5 Canadian adults have arthritis? Physiotherapy treatment has the potential to alleviate symptoms and stall joint damage for the millions of Canadians suffering from arthritis.
Arthritis is a disease that affects the joints connecting the bones and is associated with inflammation of these joints.
How many memes depicting the idiosyncratic aches and pains of getting older have you laughed at recently? You only need a brief scroll through social media to appreciate that it is not unusual. So then, what is arthritis pain?
The symptoms of arthritis are complex and varied, but generally include painful swelling and stiffness in your joints. You should see a medical professional, such as a physiotherapist, when the joint pain and inflammation doesn’t diminish, you have difficulty moving the joint, or your symptoms get steadily worse.
Note: Sheddon’s physiotherapists from the Oakville and Burlington Physio Clinics are prepared and determined to help you get back to your regular activities.
Arthritis is not one disease. In fact, there are more than 100 different types of arthritis – each causing its own kind of pain. The most frequently occurring types include:
- Osteoarthritis (OA) occurs when the cartilage between joints is damaged.
- Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system affects its own joints.
- Psoriatic arthritis (PsA) is also an autoimmune inflammatory disease where the immune system attacks the (skin and) joints.
- Gout is an inflammatory arthritis caused by excess uric acid forming crystals in joints.
Untreated arthritis can cause permanent damage and/or changes to your joints. While the quickest way to relieve arthritis symptoms is the prescription of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, physiotherapy for arthritis aims to provide long-term control of your pain and inflammation.
What are the Benefits of Physiotherapy for Arthritis Joint Pain?
Physiotherapy pivots around optimal movement of the body. While you may immediately picture marathon runners and professional sportsmen seeking such treatment, the discipline extends far beyond that.
During an arthritic flare-up, you might find basic tasks such as getting in and out of chairs, writing, or cutting food, are a challenge.
Physiotherapy helps manage arthritis symptoms by working on regaining movement in your joints, relieving pain, reducing inflammation, and strengthening muscles to support the joints.
On the surface, exercises that promote joint flexibility, coordination, and balance improve mobility. On a deeper level, though, physiotherapists are increasing your independence and bettering the overall quality of your life.
Each person’s experience with arthritis is unique. Your physiotherapist will create an individualized treatment plan based on your condition, goals, and limitations. This customized approach ensures that the therapy addresses the specific challenges you face to enhance the outcomes.
Physiotherapists may use various manual techniques to treat arthritis symptoms including mobilization and stretching, and technologies such as:
- Ultrasound: utilizes high-frequency sound waves to promote healing and improve tissue function.
- Laser therapy: focuses a beam of low-level laser light to stimulate healing, reduce pain, and promote tissue regeneration.
- Interferential treatment: modulates the perception of pain signals transmitted to the brain.
Strengthening and weight-bearing exercises are implemented to improve joint lubrication, which helps reduce the pain associated with arthritis. Your physiotherapist can develop a treatment plan that targets all areas of the body affecting the pain. For instance, if you suffer from knee pain, the exercise regimen may include proper knee mechanics and strengthening of the hip, knee and ankle.
4 Ways to Manage your Arthritis Pain
While medications may help, a physiotherapist can educate you on other methods of pain relief that work alongside your medications. You will be able to continue with some of these treatments yourself between appointments:
- Ice packs can help soothe hot and swollen joints.
- Heat packs may help to relax tense or tired muscles.
- Splinting of swollen and painful joints may be helpful during a flare-up of rheumatoid arthritis.
- Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) can block pain messages in the brain, altering your perception of pain. A TENS machine sends pulses to your nerve endings via pads placed on your skin, causing a tingling sensation you may find soothing.
With a combination of simple treatments and lifestyle changes, these four methods can help you reduce and manage your hip and knee arthritis pain:
Your weight can significantly impact arthritis symptoms as excess weight puts more pressure on your joints, especially weight-bearing joints like the hips and knees. Therefore, losing weight is strongly recommended if you have osteoarthritis and are overweight. Your physiotherapist can help you set a target weight and design a program to help you reach that target with arthritis-friendly physical activity and dietary changes. In addition, reducing the stress on your joints by losing weight can help improve mobility, decrease pain, and prevent future damage to joints.
Exercise is one of the best ways to manage hip and knee pain caused by osteoarthritis. Regular exercise can help you manage your weight, keep your joints flexible, and strengthen muscles around your joints, which offers more support. Try to incorporate low-impact exercises, such as walking, cycling, water activities, and swimming. In addition, physical therapy will make your joints stronger and increase their range of motion with exercises to strengthen the muscles that support your knees or hips to help reduce the stress on your joints during everyday activities.
Walking Aids and Assistive Devices
Your physical therapist can help you find supportive devices, such as splints, braces, or shoe inserts, which can support inflamed joints. These devices can take pressure off weakened joints and bones, reducing pain overall. Using a walking aid such as a cane or walker can help take the pressure off your hips and knees, provide additional support to the joints, and reduce your risk of falling by helping you maintain stability and balance.
Acupuncture can relieve pain by stimulating the skin at key points, which prompts the body to increase the production of endorphins. It may also increase blood flow to the area, which helps get rid of by-products that cause pain and block pain messages from being delivered to the brain.
If you are experiencing any arthritic symptoms and want to explore the benefits of physiotherapy for arthritis pain management, schedule an appointment at Sheddon Physiotherapy and Sports Clinic today. We serve Oakville, Mississauga, and Burlington, Ontario.
For more info about physiotherapy for arthritis, contact Sheddon Physiotherapy and Sports Clinic.