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What is Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Rheumatoid Arthritis

By Laurence Schubert APAM

What is Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease that causes pain and swelling to the joints. Autoimmune disorders are conditions where your immune system starts attacking its own healthy tissues. Large amounts of Inflammation in the lining of the joints is the long term cause of damage and deformity. RA will generally affect smaller joints in the body, such as the hands and feet. Where as osteoarthritis affects the joints that are involved in weight bearing such as the hips and knees.

What are the symptoms?

Common RA symptoms include:

    • Joint pain, swelling and tenderness 

    • Worse in the morning, including stiffness (up to 1-2 hours)

    • Symmetrical (both sides are generally affected equally

RA is chronic disease that has high levels of fluctuation over time. During intense periods, joints may become red, hot, swollen and painful. Pain is often worse when the joints are rested, as movement can help reduce the inflammation. Over many years RA can degrade and deform joints, resulting in a loss of function and muscle wastage.

What causes it?

Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is the process of an autoimmune dysfunction, what triggers this attack is unknown. It is thought that in some cases a virus may trigger the onset of the disease. The disease is more prominent for people who smoke, have obesity or have a family history of RA.

How can physiotherapy help?

At present, there is no cure that will decimate the disease. However, there are strategies that can be taken in order to manage RA. Seeing your rheumatologist will be an important process as they will assist in making recommendations for the best available medications for RA. Physiotherapy goals will be focused around reducing pain levels, improving your function and maintaining joint strength/range of motion. Physiotherapy may include therapeutic exercises, hydrotherapy, pain management manual therapies and patient education. Knowing more about your condition will significantly assist you with activities to avoid and what to do more of. Whilst this condition may not be cured, it can be improved.

If you have any further questions about Rheumatoid Arthritis, please contact us or book online for an appointment. 

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