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Focus On: Arthritis


Arthritis (or arthropathy)

An arthropathy is an umbrella term used to describe any disease that affects your joints. This is very similar to and often used in conjunction with arthritis. Arthritis describes a condition whereby inflammation occurs within a joint, and there are approximately 200 different conditions associated with this. Some of the more common types of arthritis are listed below.

 

 

 

 

 

Inflammatory Arthritis

This is an autoimmune condition where inflammation occurs in a joint with no apparent physical cause. It can effect multiple joints as well as the same joints on both limbs (e.g. both knees, both hands, etc.). Why this occurs is largely unknown but thought to be related to poor lifestyle factors and genetics, depending on what type of inflammatory arthritis you have. Smoking is thought to be a high risk factor for developing rheumatoid arthritis, which is the most common type of inflammatory arthritis. Symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis can be intermittent and unpredictable. Other common conditions of this type include ankylosing spondylitis, psoriatic arthritis, gout, lupus, and reactive arthritis.

Degenerative or Mechanical Arthritis

This is the “wear and tear” of the tissues between the joints known as cartilage, as well as bony changes that occur at the joint. It is known as osteoarthritis, which is the most common condition to affect joints. It is typically caused by heavy use and is more common in older populations. However, it can affect anyone at any age, with higher risk factors that can include; obesity; genetic predispositions; repetitive occupational and recreational activities (poor movement patterns); and previous fractures, inflammation, or trauma to a joint.

Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis (JIA)

This is arthritis that starts before the age of 16, of which there are several types such as; oligoarthritis; polyarthritis; enthesitis-related JIA; psoriatic arthritis; and systemic-onset JIA. It occurs slightly more in girls than boys, and knowing which type of JIA you have will allow for a better assessment of your prognosis. The signs and symptoms of JIA are similar to adult arthritic conditions, and can include; painful, swollen or stiff joints; joints that are warm to touch; increased fatigue; a recurring fever; and a limp without injury or trauma.

Signs and Symptoms

Due to the vast range of arthritic conditions, there are many signs and symptoms and some that are specific to the different types of arthritis. Some of the more common symptoms include (but are not limited to); early morning joint stiffness; joint pain after sitting for too long; joint swelling; fatigue; malaise; weight loss; mild fevers or night sweats; and skin rashes. However, be careful as these symptoms can also be indicative of other conditions, so please consult your doctor if you have any concerns.

The Benefits of Hydrotherapy for Arthritis

  • Buoyancy – immersion into the pool offloads your bodyweight on your muscles and joints. This can help alleviate some of the pressure in the joints that are submerged, allowing for increased range of movement for that joint and decreased pain.
  • Heat – our pool is maintained at 34°C, which can help to warm the tissues around the joints affected by your arthritis. This can help “loosen” muscles and joints allowing for a wider range of exercises to be performed in water that you may not be able to do on land due to the stiffness of your joints, and tightness of your muscles.
  • Hydrostatic Pressure – water naturally has pressurising qualities that can help reduce oedema and swelling. It can also help improve blood flow and lymphatic drainage.
  • Sensory Input – having your body surrounded by water can give you increased proprioception and an improved feeling of balance and confidence. This can also have some pain reducing effects, and induce a feeling of relaxation.
  • Drag or Turbulence – the water resistance against your movements provides for a safe way to increase resistance training to help improve your strength. Combined with our state of the art under water current machine, you can really make huge progress and gains in strength that you may not have been able to do on land.

When and How Can I Start Hydrotherapy?

As soon as possible! The earlier you start the better off you will be. Getting started is simple and easy, and it involves an initial assessment from one of our highly qualified physiotherapists. Together from there they will build a programme tailored to your needs, which may require additional follow-up sessions with a physio before advancing your way to self-managed sessions where you will follow a prescribed exercise plan.
 


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