When we talk about arthritis, we are not talking about any one disease. The term includes more than 100 types of arthritis and other related conditions, such as osteoarthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, gout, psoriatic arthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis. What they all have in common is that it affects the joints, the areas where bones connect and move.
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How and who do different types of arthritis affect?
The most common symptoms of arthritis are swelling, pain, stiffness and decreased range of motion. They do not always manifest themselves in the same way, but can range from mild to severe and may appear and disappear. Some may persist for many years and progress and worsen over time. These symptoms are mainly concentrated in areas such as the feet, hands, hips, knees, and lower back.
Joint diseases affect women more than men, with three out of every four affected, and their peak between the ages of forty and sixty. Furthermore, they may have multiple origins. According to data from the EPISER study of the Spanish Society of Rheumatology (SER), it is estimated that approximately 300,000 people in Spain suffer from rheumatoid arthritis, one of the many types of arthritis and rheumatic conditions that exist. In this case, the immune system attacks the joints, which can become red and swollen if not treated.
In most cases, after diagnosis, doctors and nurses will help us treat the disease. But there are other medical professionals who can have a great impact on the health and well-being of a person with arthritis, such as physical therapists. As recognized by the College of Physiotherapists of Catalonia, “Physiotherapy should be part of the multidisciplinary team that can help control arthritis.”
And one goal of arthritis treatment is to reduce the intensity of pain and maintain range of motion as much as possible during inflammation flare-ups. Physiotherapy, therefore, plays an important role in this sense, as the professionals of the association wanted to highlight this last World Physiotherapy Day, which was celebrated on September 8 and which focused its attention on certain forms of inflammatory arthritis, Which also included rheumatoid.
Guided Exercises, Key in All Forms of Arthritis
Inflammatory arthritis, including rheumatoid arthritis and axial spondyloarthritis, is directly related to pain. These are autoimmune disorders characterized by chronic inflammation in the joints and surrounding tissues, which directly contributes to pain, as acknowledged by the European Pain Federation (EFIC).
According to a review of several studies, there are many investigations that show that therapeutic exercise has a significant effect on the functional ability, mobility and speed of the hand. Additionally, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), physical activity that does not involve stress on the joints — walking, bicycling and swimming — can provide relief and improve function, mood and quality of life. Disease (CDC).
As the Spanish Association of Physiotherapists (AEF) points out, regular physical activity and exercise are important in the treatment of all forms of inflammatory arthritis, including rheumatoid arthritis and axial spondyloarthritis and, in addition, “provide many benefits for health”.
Therefore, it is important to stay active, although many people worry that exercise will increase pain or damage their joints. However, joints are designed to move and inactivity causes muscles to weaken. Physiotherapy focuses on the body’s ability to move, which can be anything from getting in and out of a chair to climbing stairs, walking, playing sports or doing leisure activities.
The goal of physical therapy treatment in arthritis is to improve mobility and restore the use of the affected joints, increase the strength to support them, and preserve the ability to perform daily activities.
In the case of osteoarthritis, the most common joint condition that usually affects the knees, hips and hands, exercise is the first-line treatment to relieve pain and help sufferers improve joint movement and strengthen muscles. Is. It is important for people suffering from osteoarthritis to remain as active as possible as this will help them reduce other symptoms and remain independent.
In these cases it is important to know what exercises can be done. And this is where the physiotherapist comes into play, who will design a specific exercise program for each individual to improve flexibility, coordination and balance.
Physical therapists can teach us proper posture and body mechanics for daily activities to relieve pain, how to use braces to support joints, and shoe inserts to relieve stress on the lower extremities if necessary. Instruct to use, and use hot and cold therapy to soothe joints. Pain and stiffness.
Physiotherapy work may therefore include several strategies:
- Develop a customized exercise program.
- Increase strength, endurance and mobility.
- Find a balance between rest and activity.
- Control swelling and stiffness.
- Modify activities at work and home.