Most people, as they age, suffer from the symptoms of arthritis, although many may not recognize the condition let alone understand their ability to reduce their pain. There are two types of arthritis, Osteoarthritis and Inflammatory arthritis. Inflammatory arthritis can present as rheumatoid, Psoriatic arthritis (linked to the chronic skin condition Psoriasis) or ankylosing spondylitis (targeting the joints of the spine).
The most common is Osteoarthritis, which is typically associated with pain in the joints during activity, as well as aching in changing weather. The exact cause is not known, but is best described as a process of aging in which the joint surfaces become ‘worn down’. This could be a result of workload over the years, or a muscle/postural imbalance which, over time, have increased the wear on certain areas of a joint. A consequence of this joint degeneration is often increased stiffness from lack of use.
As Physiotherapists, we cannot, unfortunately, turn back time and fix those worn out joints, but we can ‘fix’ joint stiffness, to a certain degree, as well as assessing for any muscle imbalances which may be continuing to affect the problem. Treatment in the clinic would likely consist of manual joint mobilisation to stretch and lengthen tightened structures as well as the release of associated muscles.
Research has shown that patients with osteoarthritis benefit from regular exercise, however, these movements must be appropriate and should not leave you unable to perform normal activities. The Physiotherapist can advise you on the appropriate exercise for your condition, which may include; resistance training, a walking program, swimming or hydrotherapy. If you really want to improve those stiff joints, a home exercise program of stretch and strengthening exercises can also be prescribed.