Coping with Arthritis
September 03, 2019 at 10:42 AM
As physiotherapists, when patients have stiff, creaky, or ‘popping’ joints, we often get asked - “Do I have arthritis?” If you’re over 65, the chances of having it are more likely than not. But regardless of your age, a diagnosis that you have arthritis doesn’t necessarily mean doom and gloom. Many people can lead a full life with arthritis, often without even noticing symptoms. The key is keeping strong and active throughout your life.
How common is arthritis?
In 2018, approximately 670,000 New Zealanders aged 15 or over are living with at least one type of arthritis. This equates to 17% of the population aged 15 or over, or 1 in 6 people. With an increasing ageing population, there are projected to be 1 million cases of arthritis in New Zealand by 2040. Sadly, many people suffer for longer than necessary because they don’t realise that physiotherapy can help. (Arthritis New Zealand, 2018)
What is arthritis?
There are over 140 types of arthritis, of which osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and gout arthritis are the most common forms in New Zealand. Osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis overall, is characterised by degradation, destruction and eventual loss of articular cartilage. Also called degenerative joint disease, osteoarthritis can affect any joint in the body, but more commonly occurs in the major weight-bearing joints such as hips, knees or lower spine.
What can I do to help my arthritis?
Unfortunately, you can not change the amount of wear and tear that has already occurred in your joints. This happens throughout your life and is a relatively normal part of ageing. Don’t despair though, with the right advice and treatment from professionals such as physiotherapists and those who specialise in rehabilitation or strengthening, many patients can reduce their symptoms and are able to do more activities with less pain. The key is that as an arthritis patient, you must play an active part in your treatment and commit to a good long-term management programme with your physiotherapist.
At present the primary recommendations for osteoarthritis are exercise-based and non-pharmacological (Arthritis New Zealand, 2018). This means that the best ways to manage symptoms don’t include surgery or prescription medication. That said, various targeted vitamin and mineral supplements can provide significant relief for pain and inflammation when combined with a good exercise programme.
As physiotherapists, we are trained to ask questions that determine the onset and pattern of the pain and clinically examine the joints and local movements. This gives us a great deal of information around what is causing your symptoms
What can Physiotherapists do for arthritis?
The physiotherapists at Auckland Physiotherapy are highly skilled and will assist you in the following areas:
1. Techniques to manage joint pain, flares, and swelling
2. Joint and soft tissue mobilisation to improve mobility and reduce pain
3. Prescribe a tailored home exercise programme focussed on restoring/maintaining joint mobility and improving your strength and function
4. Prescribe supplements to assist with healing and slowing down the degenerative process such as Glucosamine, Omega 3’s etc. (read our blog about the benefits of fish oils HERE)
5. General exercise and nutrition advice
Manage your arthritis now!
If you have arthritis in your lower limbs there are some simple exercises that you could start doing now to help increase the strength of your muscles without over-loading your joints.
Personalised care package
Depending on your needs, we can create a bespoke package of treatments to suit your lifestyle and budget. We are also affiliated with all major health insurance providers so if you have health insurance then it is likely that you can use this to help manage your condition.
Complimentary phone call
Helen and Mark, both physiotherapists and directors at Auckland Physiotherapy, are also happy to offer a complimentary 15-minute call to discuss your symptoms and what treatment option will serve you best. To learn more about arthritis, please visit arthritis.co.nz. This site provides a wealth of knowledge and more tips for you to help with your condition.
Take home point
If you are suffering from arthritis, inaction and rest are the worst things you can do to improve your condition. Even if movement causes a bit of discomfort, you need to move and stay strong to minimize long-term pain and enjoy life. The old saying ‘move it or lose it’ isn’t too far from the truth. Taking action now can help set you on the path to experiencing a life with more movement and less pain.
Mark Quinn, Masters trained Physiotherapist & director at Auckland Physiotherapy.
Join Mark for an Arthritis Seminar on Saturday, October 19th from 2-4 pm. This seminar is FREE and spaces are limited so please book your spot HERE.