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Arthritis & Rheumatological Conditions

Arthritis is a common condition that causes pain and inflammation in a joint. The two most common types of arthritis are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. 

Other types of arthritis and related conditions include Ankylosing spondylitis, Cervical spondylosis, Fibromyalgia, Lupus, Gout, Psoriatic arthritis, Enteropathic arthritis, Reactive arthritis, Secondary arthritis and Polymyalgia rheumatica.

Aquatic Therapy - What are the benefits of exercise in water for managing Arthritis?

  • The body’s natural buoyancy in water relieves body weight, allowing for functional movements (such as walking, squatting, lunging or step up’s) to be practiced with less stress on joints and their supporting muscles.
  • The hydrostatic pressure of the water can have positive effects on reducing joint swelling, which in turn improves blood flow and helps regain more range of motion and reduces pain.
  • Further positive influences on pain regulation are due to the relaxation effect of warm water and suppression of the sympathetic nervous system associated with water immersion.
  • The sensory input of the water can also increase body position sense enabling improved feelings of balance and confidence.
  • Through increased confidence and reduced pain, patients are able to move more freely. This can then have a feed forward effect, where future behaviours and movements can potentially determine long term management outcomes.

I started hydrotherapy in May 2011 after not walking for 4 years due to crumbling spine and polymiralgia rheumatica, and osteoarthritis of the knees, feet and hips. To aid my mobility, I had a hip replacement. My consultant said that an operation on my spine, although possible, could leave me paralysed. The furthest that I could walk was from my front door to my next door neighbours.

I was very nervous as I arrived for my first hydrotherapy session in a wheelchair. Once in the water, I found the staff most encouraging, not pushing me further than I thought I could manage. I began to look forward to each session wondering what new things I would learn.

Now, after 6 months, I can walk half a mile and slowly climb a flight of stairs.

I would recommend hydrotherapy and AquaPhysio to anyone who experiences the sort of problems that I had.

LH

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Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis in the UK, affecting approximately 8 million people, and most often develops in adults who are in their late 40s or older. It's also more common in women and people with a family history of the condition. However, it can occur at any age as a result of an injury or be associated with other joint-related conditions, such as gout or rheumatoid arthritis.

Osteoarthritis initially affects the smooth cartilage lining of the joint. This makes movement more difficult than usual, leading to pain and stiffness. Once the cartilage lining starts to roughen and thin out, the tendons and ligaments have to work harder. This can cause swelling and the formation of bony spurs, called osteophytes.

Severe loss of cartilage can lead to bone rubbing on bone, altering the shape of the joint and forcing the bones out of their normal position. The most commonly affected joints are those in the hands, spine, knees and hips.

Rheumatoid arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is less common than Osteoarthritis, affecting more than 400,000 people in the UK. It often starts when a person is between 40 and 50 years old. Women are three times more likely to be affected than men.
Rheumatoid and osteoarthritis are two different conditions. Rheumatoid arthritis occurs when the body's immune system targets affected joints, which leads to pain and swelling.

The outer covering (synovium) of the joint is the first place affected. This can then spread across the joint, leading to further swelling and a change in the joint's shape. This may cause the bone and cartilage to break down. People with rheumatoid arthritis can also develop problems with other tissues and organs in their body.

Symptoms of Arthritis

The symptoms of arthritis you experience will vary depending on the type you have. This is why it's important to have an accurate diagnosis if you have: joint pain, tenderness and stiffness inflammation in and around the joints restricted movement of the joints, warm red skin over the affected joint, weakness, and muscle wasting.

Arthritis and children

Arthritis is often associated with older people, but it can also affect children. In the UK, about 15,000 children and young people are affected by arthritis.
Most types of childhood arthritis are known as juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA). JIA causes pain and inflammation in one or more joints for at least six weeks. Although the exact cause of JIA is unknown, the symptoms often improve as a child gets older, meaning they can lead a normal life.
The main types of JIA are discussed below. The Arthritis Research UK website has more information about the different types of juvenile idiopathic arthritis.

Treating arthritis

There's no cure for arthritis, but there are many treatments that can help control and slow down the progression of the condition.

For osteoarthritis, physiotherapy treatment should include regular tailored exercise prescription, management advice and education. Manual therapy and other passive treatments may also be used. Your doctor may prescribe medications including painkillers, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and corticosteroids.

In severe cases, surgical procedures may be recommended, including arthroplasty (joint replacement), arthodesis (joint fusion), and osteotomy (where a bone is cut and re-aligned).

Treatment for rheumatoid arthritis aims to slow down the condition's progress and minimise joint inflammation or swelling. This is to try and prevent damage to the joints. Recommended treatments are similar to the approach used for Osteoarthritis with the addition of disease modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs) – a combination of treatments is often recommended.

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