My job is to keep you moving, and arthritis is one of the most common reasons that people aren’t. It’s a topic of daily discussion here at WLP, so here are my answers to a few of the questions that we’re most frequently asked about arthritis.
What types of arthritis are there?
There are over a hundred different types of arthritis, but the most common conditions can be broadly categorised into either degenerative/osteoarthritis or inflammatory arthritis. Osteoarthritis refers to the degeneration of joint cartilage, which can cause impeded movement, pain and the development of bony spurs called osteophytes.
Inflammatory arthritis is more complex and can be caused by autoimmune disorders, as seen in conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis. We do treat inflammatory arthritis at WLP, but as the causes and treatments are highly case specific, the rest of the answers in this blog will only apply to osteoarthritis.
If you have any questions about inflammatory arthritis, please get in touch with me directly at email@example.com.
How can I reduce my risk of developing arthritis?
A gradual reduction in cartilage is a natural part of ageing, which means that even us physiotherapists aren’t immune from developing arthritis. There are also a number of additional factors that can increase the rate that cartilage wears down, such as excess body weight, injuries, posture and maladaptive movement patterns.
Exercise is by far the most effective way to reduce your risk of developing arthritis. Strong muscles and ligaments provide support for your joints, which reduces the friction between your bones and relieves the burden on your cartilage. However, poor technique or movement patterns may cause you to put too much load on a joint and make things worse, so make sure that you consult a professional before picking up the weights or pounding the pavement.
Am I going to have to stop being active if I have arthritis?
The biggest worry that people with arthritis have is that they will have to reduce or stop their exercise, activities or sports. In most cases, some adjustment will be required, but our objective is always to keep you as fit and active and possible. For example, we may advise that you switch from running to cycling or swimming to keep your body moving without putting as much pressure on your joints.
Loss of activity is a dangerous consequence of arthritis, especially in older age when muscles can waste rapidly if they are unused, which can accelerate joint degeneration and increase the risk of injury. Of course, being active is easier said than done if your joints are stiff and painful, but with pain management and very gradual, controlled exercise programmes, we can maintain or increase strength without overwhelming you.
Will I need surgery?
Surgery – whether a joint replacement or an arthroscopy – is always a last resort after trials of physiotherapy and medication have proved unsuccessful. Even when x-rays or MRIs reveal “bone on bone” arthritis in a joint, where there is no longer any cartilage remaining, we can still see successful results from physiotherapy and medication alone.
The symptoms of arthritis vary dramatically from person to person, so one person’s arthritis may go almost unnoticed while another’s is unbearable despite the physical diagnosis being the same. Decisions on which treatment to pursue must be based on the experience of the condition rather than its diagnosis, especially when surgery is being considered.
If surgery is required, rehabilitation should start as soon as possible, often on the same day as the operation. As I mentioned above, loss of activity can be dangerous in old age, so we encourage full body movement and carefully prescribe exercises that focus on safely strengthening the affected joint.
If you haven’t found the answer to your question in this blog, feel free to get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or come and see us by booking an appointment at email@example.com or by calling 0207 937 1628.
Liam McCloskey – Musculoskeletal Physiotherapist
BSC(PHYSIO)(HONS) MCSP HCPC