Rheumatoid arthritis is an auto-immune system disease that causes the body to attack its own joints and soft issues. Rheumatoid arthritis usually affects the joints of the hands and feet, but it can also cause neck, shoulder and elbow problems. Joint swelling is often a sign of rheumatoid arthritis.
Anti-inflammatory drugs and painkillers are used to treat the inflammation and pain. And the disease itself is often treated with special anti-rheumatoid medication – known as DMARDS. These drugs interrupt the progress of the disease to minimise further joint damage and the prognosis for people with RA is much better than some other types of arthritis.
Physiotherapy for RA can make a huge difference in your quality of life, by increasing mobility dramatically and helping to reduce pain. This often allows you to lower your daily dose of non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs – known as NSAID’s.
Water treatments like warm water swimming are an important part of most treatment plans. Supported by the water your joints will be free of pressure or pain and this makes it easier for you to follow the physio exercises that strengthen muscles and the stretching that improves mobility.
With poor muscle tone, RA sufferers find it difficult to walk and so the strengthening exercises prescribed by your physio improve muscle tone giving direct benefits in joint support and control.
Heat or ice therapy can be used to reduce inflammation without you having to take too much NSAID medication. Ultrasound is also used to reduce swollen joints and aid mobility.
Apart from feeling marvellous in itself - therapeutic massage is an excellent way to loosen stiff joints and reduce pain. Massage is another effective physiotherapy treatment that improves movement and range dramatically.
Your physiotherapist will design a tailor-made treatment plan for you and supervise your course of treatment. In addition, physiotherapists are trained in the psychology of pain management and understand what you are going through. This allows the physio to give you the support and encouragement that’s essential to keep you positive and focussed on your progress.
Physiotherapy is a very effective way to improve all the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis and if you practise a little walking and stretching at home, you’ll see a significant improvement in your whole quality of life!
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