Physiotherapy for Rheumatoid Arthritis

By on December 2, 2020

Today, thanks to different therapies we can face certain ailments that affect us and are very difficult to cure.

Although we are taking bigger and bigger steps in technology, we are also doing it in health matters and we are adapting treatments to counteract pathologies such as arthritis, which we will talk about today. (Image Credit: Steve Buissinne /Pixabay)

What is Rheumatoid Arthritis?

The word arthritis means inflammation of a joint in the body. Joints are points of union between two or more bones that allow movement of the limbs.

Rheumatoid arthritis is a very common disease characterized by chronic pain and inflammation of various joints in the hands, feet, knees, shoulders, elbows, and neck.

It is an autoimmune disease because our body’s own immune or defense system releases chemicals and cells that cause inflammation, pain, and damage in the joints. It can also cause inflammation of other organs in the body.

Who Suffers from Rheumatoid Arthritis?

In general, it attacks women more than men and the average age of onset is between 20 and 40 years old.

What are the causes of arthritis?

Its origin is not very clear; however, research shows that several factors intervene in its appearance:

  • Family heritage
  • Environmental factors
  • Infectious agents such as viruses or bacteria can help a genetically predisposed person to present the disease
  • Deficiencies or changes in certain hormones can promote the development of arthritis as in women shortly after childbirth
  • Situations of great stress or emotional crisis can serve as triggers of the disease

What are the symptoms?

  • Joint pain in the hands, wrists, or feet
  • Inflammation or swelling of the same areas
  • Increased temperature, redness, or flushing in the joints
  • Stiffness, especially in the morning, lasting about an hour
  • Fatigue may also occur, fever in the afternoon that does not exceed 38.5 degrees Celsius
  • Lack of appetite and mood

The disease can be systemic, that is, it can give rise to other manifestations such as the following:

  • Small painless bumps or bumps that are located on the hands, elbows, feet, and even the scalp
  • Mild or moderate anemia found in the blood test
  • Vasculitis, although it is rare. May manifest on the skin with non-healing breakouts, rashes, and ulcers, especially on the legs
  • Sjogren’s syndrome, which is manifested by dry eyes and mouth although can also be felt on the skin and vaginal mucosa
  • Pleurisy and pericarditis
  • Inflammation of the membranes that line the lung and heart, with pain when breathing and intermittent choking sensation
  • Osteoporosis or weakening of the bones due to loss of bone mass and calcium, with the risk of fractures
  • Increased risk of heart and brain infarction associated with a chronic inflammatory state
  • Cholesterol and triglyceride changes

How is Rheumatoid Arthritis diagnosed?

Once symptoms appear, the first step is to see a rheumatologist who will take a complete medical history and a careful physical exam to determine the joints involved.

To make a good diagnosis it is necessary to perform some laboratory tests such as:

  • Rheumatoid factor tests and anticitrullinated antibodies
  • Erythrocyte sedimentation rate
  • Antinuclear antibodies
  • Additional kidney and liver function tests

In most cases, radiographs of the affected limbs are useful to show the degree of progression of the disease.

Treatment

Each patient will have a treatment adapted to their particular situation, however, there will always be components of each of the following three:

Rehabilitation: To prevent the progression of the disease, maintain and improve the ranges of motion and muscle strength, so that the patient is independent when performing daily activities. Among the most used physical media are:

  • Superficial and deep heat
  • Cold and electrical stimulation

Pharmacological treatment: Based on the administration of drugs that reduce inflammation.

Surgical intervention: For patients with severe joint damage. The main purpose is the recovery of joint function, independence for mobility, and improving the quality of life of the patient.

Physiotherapy

Physical activity is very helpful for everyone. For many years it was thought that people with arthritis should not exercise because it would injure their joint. Nonetheless, doctors and professionals of physical therapy clinics now know that this belief is not true.

If you have arthritis or a related disease, exercise will help you to:

  • Strengthen the muscles around the joints to increase their resistance
  • Maintain the flexibility of the joints
  • Delay the deterioration of bone and cartilage tissue
  • Increase the ability to perform daily activities
  • Improve your mood and increase bone strength
  • Improve your overall health and fitness

Which is the first step?

Before doing any type of exercise, check with your doctor, especially if you are not physically active regularly and have pain, stiffness, or weakness that affects your daily activities.

These exercises help maintain or increase muscle strength and endurance. Strong muscles help keep your joints more stable and protected while reducing fatigue.

The most common strengthening exercises for people with arthritis are isometric exercises and isotonic exercises.

Isometric exercises: These types of exercises allow you to develop and strengthen your muscles without moving the joints that hurt.

This is achieved by tensing the muscles without changing the position of the limbs such as standing up and pressing against the wall.

Isotonic exercises: In these exercises, you must move the joints through their full range of movements to strengthen the muscles in the face of some form of resistance.

Resistance to movement can come from the force of gravity, the course of an elastic resistance exercise tape or band, light weights, or weights around the ankles or wrists.

Finally, the patient should also have sleeping routines, specially after this exercise. If you or someone you know has trouble sleeping well, read our article on how to fight insomnia.

Recommendations

We can cite as rules of postural hygiene:

  • Maintain the right weight for your height
  • Wear comfortable shoes
  • Do not carry out activities that demand great effort
  • Do recreational activities

Summing up

Thanks to physiotherapeutic treatments, today we can prevent deformations, achieve greater independence of the patient, and strengthen self-esteem to face daily activities.

This is why a physiotherapist is of great importance to a patient with arthritis and plays a decisive role in preventing personal deterioration.

About Jacqueline Maddison

Jacqueline Maddison is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Rancho Santa Fe Magazine. She believes in shining light on the best of the best in life. She welcomes you into the world of the ultimate luxury lifestyle.

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