Could physiotherapy help your arthritis?

Posted on: 27 May 2015

3.85 million Australians, one in five of the population, suffer from arthritis, and it's predicted that in 35 years that figure will climb to 7 million. This paints a pretty bleak picture for the health of the nation, but if you suffer from arthritis, a swelling of the joints that causes stiffness, mobility problems and pain, you might find that checking in with your local physiotherapist could help to relieve your symptoms.

Physiotherapy is simply the practice of physical therapy - healing your muscles, joints, and any pain in your body through movement, exercise, and certain other physical applications such as massage. If you exert yourself too much and don't know how to manipulate your body to make it better, you could find that your arthritis actually gets worse. This is why a physiotherapist can be useful. They are trained and have practice in knowing exactly what needs to be done with the body to make it function optimally.

But what can you actually expect when you set foot inside the physiotherapy clinic? What are some of the things that your physiotherapist is likely to recommend to relieve your pain?

Hot and cold therapy. Many physiotherapists work with applied heat or applied cold in order to manage muscle and joint pain. Heat is often applied to the affected area because it encourages blood flow and the production of oxygen, which in turn, eases the pain. Applied heat can also reduce the frequency of muscle spasms. Applying something cool to the affected area can also be effective because arthritis is an inflammatory condition and applied coolness can reduce the swelling and inflammation, and its associated pain.

It's a great idea to have hot and cold therapy in a physiotherapist's clinic because patients can potentially hurt themselves by applying something that is too hot or too cold to themselves, and actually cause further damage. Inside the clinic, your arthritis will be assessed and the therapy will be completely controlled. They can also teach you the correct methods to apply heat at home including using heated wax and warm baths.

Hydrotherapy. Many physiotherapists partner with local pools and baths because they recognise the incredible benefits that hydrotherapy, essentially movement and exercise in water, can have for a number of physical conditions including arthritis. Moving in water is easier than moving on land for people with joint pain because the force of gravity is lessened in water and this means that your joints don't have to work as hard. A physiotherapist will be able to teach you safe exercises that you can perform in water, and the results can be improved mobility, lessened pain, and increased in strength.

Electrotherapy. A clear benefit of visiting a physiotherapist is that you will have access to specialist techniques that require specific equipment not commonly found in the home, and one of these techniques is electrotherapy. In electrotherapy, a device sends electrical impulses to your affected joints and this helps to stimulate the muscles and relieve pain. A study has shown that electrotherapy can improve muscle power by 55%.

Massage therapy. A massage isn't only a treat you can purchase on a spa day, it's something that can help with your muscle and joint pain. A trained physiotherapist will know exactly how to manipulate the muscles and joints in a safe way. This manipulation will increase the blood and oxygen flow in the affected areas in order to reduce your pain. It is recommended that you always book a massage with a physiotherapist who is aware of your condition instead of booking a massage session at a salon or spa where the therapists may not be trained in massage for arthritis.

For more information, contact a local physiotherapy clinic or practitioner.