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• I have arthritis. What can you do for my arthritis pain?

There are many things that can be done to decrease the pain that is caused by arthritis. Physiotherapy directed treatment has a large part to play in the overall management of arthritis. The physiotherapist, as well as other members of your pain management team, are trained to understand and treat the physical aspects of the human body.

Physiotherapy directed treatment for people with arthritis is aimed at:

  • reducing pain
  • improving movement
  • strengthening muscle power
  • assisting a person to be independent and functioning as well as is possible.

The range of therapies which may be used include pain relief methods and treatments to relieve pain and stiffness. Physiotherapy directed treatment will not cure arthritis as it is not curable.

Pain relief methods

  • Thermal (heat treatments) These treatments produce heat within your body tissues. The application can be directed towards superficial or deeper parts of the body. The most common types of treatment used are infra-red radiation (heat lamps), wax baths and hot packs for superficial treatments, and microwave diathermy and shortwave diathermy for deep heating treatment.
  • Electrical treatments (electrotherapy) These treatments produce electrical stimulation of your body tissues. They may be extremely useful in the treatment of both acute and chronic arthritis, where pain, swelling and muscle spasms are present.
  • Physical treatments These treatments include the use of, ice therapy and traction.

Treatments to relieve pain and stiffness

A balanced programme of rest and exercise, and careful attention to joint posture is an important part of pain management, joint protection and maintenance of your joint function.

Controlled exercise helps lessen pain and stiffness and improves the strength of muscles and ligaments, so helping to stabilise joints. This is essential in all aspects of self care and particularly important before and after joint surgery.

Manual therapy
Mobilisation and manipulation techniques are passive movements applied to a joint or soft tissue by the therapist in a specific manner to help restore full movement to a joint that is painful and restricted.

With increased understanding of the structure and movement of the spine and peripheral joints, the usefulness of manipulation in the treatment of arthritis has become much clearer. Manual therapy is often useful in the chronic forms of arthritis and is often successful when other methods such as heat and exercises have given little or no relief.

Hydrotherapy or pool therapy is a very useful means of exercising arthritic joints using the buoyancy of water to assist or resist movement. The warmth of the water increases the circulation and helps reduce muscle spasms, producing more effective movement. Joint mobility, muscle strength and general fitness can be improved with hydrotherapy.