What is Arthritis?
Arthritis is often referred to as a single disease. In fact, it is an umbrella term for more than 100 medical conditions that affect the musculoskeletal system, specifically joints where two or more bones meet. Arthritis-related problems include pain, stiffness, inflammation and damage to joint cartilage and surrounding structures. This can result in joint weakness, instability and deformities that can interfere with the most basic daily tasks. The most common forms of arthritis (affecting 95% of Australians) are:
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Ankylosing spondylitis.
Who gets arthritis?
Anyone can get arthritis, including children and young people. In Australia one in six people have arthritis. Many people think arthritis is a normal part of getting older; this is not true. In fact two out of every three people with arthritis are between 15 and 60 years old. Arthritis can affect people from all backgrounds, ages and lifestyles.
What are the symptoms?
Arthritis affects people in different ways but the most common symptoms are:
- Stiffness or reduced movement of a joint
- Swelling in a joint
- Redness and warmth in a joint
- General symptoms such as tiredness, weight loss or feeling unwell.
Is my sore joint arthritis?
There are many different reasons why your joints may be sore. Not all pain in muscles and joints is caused by arthritis. It could be from an injury or using your joints and muscles in an unusual way (e.g. playing a new sport or lifting heavy boxes). Talk to your doctor if you have pain and stiffness that:
- Starts for no clear reason
- Lasts for more than a few days
- Comes on with swelling, redness and warmth of your joints.
How can I find out if I have arthritis?
See your doctor as soon as possible if you have symptoms. Your doctor will ask you about your symptoms and examine your joints. They may do some tests or x-rays, but these can be normal in the early stages of arthritis. It may take several visits before your doctor can tell what type of arthritis you have as some types of arthritis can be hard to diagnose in the early stages. Your doctor may also send you to a rheumatologist for confirmation.
Can arthritis be treated?
Many types of arthritis can be easily and effectively controlled by modern treatment
Currently there is no cure for most forms of arthritis, however many types of arthritis can be easily and effectively controlled by modern treatment. Early diagnosis and the right treatment can ease symptoms and may even prevent damage to your joints. Research has led to great improvements in this area. Because arthritis aff
ects people in different ways, treatment has to be tailored to the needs of each person. It is important to work with your healthcare team to find treatments that suit you.
Physiotherapy for arthritis
Physiotherapists are highly qualified in the assessment and treatment of the effects of arthritis. Physiotherapy can:
- Reduce pain
- Improve movement and posture
- Strengthen muscles
- Improve independent function
- Assess and treat biomechanical problems that may exacerbate the pain and loss of function
What can I do?
There are many simple things you can do to live well with arthritis:
- Find out what type of arthritis is affecting you and learn about your treatment options.
- Stay active: keep your joints moving and your muscles strong*
- Learn ways to manage pain: there are many things you can do to help you cope with pain
- Manage tiredness: learn to balance rest time with your normal activities
- Keep to a healthy weight: there is no diet that can cure arthritis but a well-balanced diet is best for your general health. A dietitian can help to get you on the right track with your eating habits
Jude Holroyd is the Principal Physiotherapist at our Jordan Springs practice.