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News - Arthritis responds well to exercise!

View the Daily Express article here

Physiotherapists have been advocating this for decades and it is interesting that the article has no Physiotherapists’ view even though the experts refer these patients on to Physiotherapy. The article refers to 62% of those who took part in the study reported a favourable response but what about the remaining 38% of participants?

Arthritis is a degenerative joint condition. It does not affect the bone. The problem is that the joint is unable to produce the natural lubricant (Synovial fluid) which reduces the effect of friction at the junction where bones meet to form the joint. The release of synovial fluid is stimulated by natural movement at the joint.

Based upon what I have seen in Practice, arthritis can be categorised into 2 main phases, the ‘active’ phase when the joint is experiencing an inflammatory process and the ‘quiet’ phase. During the active phase the joint may have one or a combination of a sensation of warmth to touch, look sore and ‘angry’ and be more swollen than usual. During the quiet phase it may look swollen but it feels cool and looks quite normal. As there is no cure for the condition, it is beneficial for a long term management strategy to be developed. Here is some advice based upon experience in clinic;

When the joint is in an active phase
1. REST is preferable. This is very important for the weight bearing joints such as the hips, knees and ankles. No exercises at this stage.
2. Keep the joint cool. Apply an ice pack AROUND the knee not just over it for a maximum of 10 minutes. Applying it for longer will INCREASE the temperature and make it worse. You can apply the ice pack as often as you like, as long as the skin temperature returns to normal between applications.

During the quiet phase do as much activity as possible placing emphasis on range and quality of movement. In order to do this;

1. Do not force the joint beyond its natural available range of movement. Forcing it beyond this point will increase an inflammatory process and therefore make it worse.
2. Gentle ‘through range’ movement is much more beneficial than muscle strengthening exercises. Remember gentle movement will stimulate the release of synovial fluid not muscle strength. Make the movement repetitive and consistent. Make sure you keep to a regular routine.

It is possible that the 38% of the study participants were experiencing an active phase of arthritis and thus were not able to see a reduction in their pain. The above simple tips should ensure that the joint retains its integrity within the boundaries set by the condition. Remember, if you don’t use it you’ll lose it! If in any doubt see your local Physiotherapist.

© Dr A. A. Aluko, November 2012

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