20 Feb Rheumatoid Arthritis: How can we help?
What is Rheumatoid Arthritis?
Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammatory autoimmune disease. The immune system mistakenly treats the lining or synovium of your joints as foreign and begins to attack your own healthy tissues. Rheumatoid arthritis usually affects smaller joints, such as those in the hands and feet, however larger joints can also be affected. Symptoms may vary but commonly include joint pain, swelling, tenderness and stiffness (especially in the morning).
How can it be treated?
Currently there is no cure for Rheumatoid Arthritis, but there are a variety of ways to help manage symptoms and with early diagnosis and the right treatment, most people can continue to live full and active lives.
How can physiotherapy help?
We can help ease symptoms and reduce the impact Rheumatoid Arthritis can have on your life. Here is a list of conservative (non-surgical) treatment options that have been shown to help patients with Rheumatoid Arthritis.
HEAT/ICE and COMPRESSION
This can help to manage pain and swelling. Generally, heat is better used in the chronic phases and cold is more effective during acute flare ups. Compression bandages to help control swelling.
Research shows that people with RA can participate in regular, appropriate exercise without causing joint damage or worsening of symptoms. Many muscles surrounding affected joints are inhibited by pain, which can lead to muscle weakness. Your physiotherapist will work with you to devise a tailored strengthening program. Maintaining joint range of motion is important for preventing contracture. Your physiotherapist can show you some gentle stretches and mobility exercises to minimise stiffness. Low impact exercise such as walking, swimming or hydrotherapy can help maintain joint range of motion, build strength, maintain cardiovascular fitness, encourage weight loss, improve general health and make you feel more self-confident.
Your physiotherapist can offer you advice on how you can self-manage your symptoms during flare ups such as splints and assistive devices. For example, provide you with pacing strategies to minimise fatigue and help find the right balance between keeping active and doing the things you enjoy without overdoing it.