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Key Facts about rheumatoid artritis (RA)
- Women are three times more likely as men to have RA
- Over 690,000 people in the UK have RA (that’s almost one in every hundred!)
- Usually diagnosed in people between the ages of 40 and 60
- About 1 in 4 people with RA do not realise that with proper treatment they can lead a full and active life.
- 3 in 5 people have difficulty performing daily activities
- 70% of people with RA have wrist and hand problems
- 90% have symptoms in the foot
Data from National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society and the Arthritis National Research Foundation.
What is rheumatoid arthritis?
Rheumatoid arthritis is an inflammatory condition which can affect a number of joints in the body. Usually, the articular surface (lining) and synovium (fluid filled sac covering the joints surface) become inflamed which can then interfere with your normal hobbies or activities of daily living. The inflammation occurs as a result of the body’s immune system attacking various joints although the reason for this is not known. The inflammation may also affect the cartilage and the ligaments within a joint which can be very painful.
There are a number of symptoms that may be experienced if you have rheumatoid arthritis and these can vary at different times. Physiotherapy is a very effective way of reducing these symptoms and we have specialist physiotherapists that can provide you with a comprehensive treatment programme that is appropriate to meet your individual needs.
Potential symptoms may include:
- Swelling of certain joints
- Stiffness which occurs especially in the mornings
- Redness over the joints
- Heat within the joints
- Unable to carry out your normal activities of daily living
- Anxiety and depression
- Anaemia (reduced red blood cells)
- Weight loss
- Joint instability
- Rheumatoid nodules (lumps) over the joints
The most commonly affected joints are:
- Metacarpophalangeal (MCP) joints (knuckles)
- Proximal interphalangeal (PIP) joints of the hand (middle joints of fingers)
- Proximal interphalangeal (PIP) joints of the foot (middle joints of toes)
Most people with rheumatoid arthritis experience flare ups at different times and it is during those times that symptoms are most severe. Therefore it is important to develop an action plan with your physiotherapist that can help you manage your flare ups most effectively to allow you to remain as active as possible during these times.
How is rheumatoid arthritis diagnosed?
There are a number of tests used to diagnose rheumatoid arthritis and it is often the combined results of these tests that confirm the disease. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned above, it is important that you go to your GP as soon as possible. Early diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis will provide a more effective treatment. The tests used include:
- Blood tests
- Ultrasound scanning
- Number of symptoms
Once rheumatoid arthritis has been confirmed, it is important that you begin physiotherapy as soon as possible to optimise the management of your symptoms. We will provide you with a full assessment and comprehensive treatment programme including a home exercise programme to help you take control of your condition.
How will physiotherapy help with rheumatoid arthritis?
Physiotherapy can help manage and reduce your symptoms in a number of ways. Your physiotherapist will encourage you to take an active role in your treatment programme which will help you to work towards your goals. Physiotherapy can help in the following ways:
- Pain control
- Reduce inflammation and joint stiffness
- Help you to return to your normal activities of daily living or sports
- Reduce tiredness
- Increase range of movement at joints
- Increase muscle strength
- Improve cardiovascular fitness levels
What physiotherapy will be used for rheumatoid arthritis?
There are a variety of physiotherapy options that can be used to treat rheumatoid arthritis. The choice of treatment will depend on a number of reasons including your symptoms and the severity of the condition. Your physiotherapist will work with you to design an individually tailored programme to optimise your treatment and help you remain as active as possible. Potential physiotherapy treatments may include:
- Cardiovascular activity (swimming, cycling)
- Range of movement exercises
- Strengthening exercises
- Gentle mobilisation techniques
Rheumatoid arthritis is an inflammatory condition that mainly affects the joints of the shoulder, knee, wrist, hand and foot. The inflammation is caused by an attack of the body’s own immune system on the tissues in these joints. You may experience stiffness, swelling, tiredness and pain as symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. Physiotherapy is an effective way to reduce these symptoms and helps promote self-management so you can keep doing all the activities of daily living that you usually do.
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