Can Physio help Arthritis?

Arthritis has got a really bad reputation for resulting in a horrible and inevitable decline into pain and limited movement. However, whilst it can be horrible, that’s often not the case, and there is more than can be done than a lot of people realise. What is Arthritis? There are…

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Ladies Walking

Arthritis has got a really bad reputation for resulting in a horrible and inevitable decline into pain and limited movement. However, whilst it can be horrible, that’s often not the case, and there is more than can be done than a lot of people realise.

What is Arthritis?

There are various types of Arthritis. The most common of those is called Osteoarthritis and this is what we’re going to be talking about in this article. To be clear, Osteoarthritis is a normal part of the ageing process. It’s like grey hairs and wrinkles, and generally speaking, if you live long enough, you will get some of it.

It’s often referred to as wear and tear of the joints. As you get older, and the joints have been used more, the cartilage in your joints, particularly the ones that get lots of pressure through like your hips and knees, is not of the same quality as it was when you are younger. It’s not quite a smooth, and it may have some little cracks or be thinner than it used to be. The quality of lubrication in the joint often isn’t quite as good either.

What that results in is often swelling, and pain in the joints, most commonly the hips, knees and hands. It can also result in restricted movement too.

Can Arthritis be fixed?

The simple answer is no. There are loads of things that can be done to relieve symptoms and reduce the effects but there isn’t anything that can be done to fix it as such. But…

Can you have arthritis without any pain?

Absolutely! And this is the key point that we always make to our patients. If it’s been established that they have pain because of arthritis in a joint, then moments before the pain came on, they had the arthritis, they just didn’t have the symptoms, and this is really important to keep in mind. This means that it’s possible to have arthritis but not have the pain and limitation so often associated with it.

The problem is, that people often don’t do anything about arthritis because they believe it can’t be improved. Again, the arthritis itself ie the little cracks and thinnings of the cartilage can’t be fixed, BUT the symptoms of that can be relieved, sometimes completely, but nearly always at least partially.

Do I have to have surgery?

I suppose the only way to stop arthritis being a problem is to have surgery in the form of a joint replacement. If you replace the arthritic joint with a prosthetic one, then the arthritis won’t be a problem.

However, there are lots of things that can be done before considering surgery that can help reduce or eliminate pain. And here they are…

Keep the joint moving

There is a terrible phrase in Physio circles that is “Motion is lotion”. I hate the phrase, but it is accurate really. Joints rely on good quality movement to stimulate the production of synovial fluid. That’s what lubricates the joints. People with arthritis often reduce their movement because it hurts, but unfortunately, that means the lubrication gets worse and so the pain and stiffness does too.

It’s difficult to move when a joint hurts, so generally gentle, regular movements ideally without putting too much pressure through the painful joint work really well. Activities like swimming or cycling can be really useful.

The other benefit to movement is blood supply and lymphatic drainage, without which, any swelling tends to pool and cause more problems.

So gentle, frequent movement means improved lubrication and less swelling. That generally means less pain.

Strengthen the muscles around the joint

Generally speaking, the stronger the muscles are around the joint, the less pressure goes through the joint surfaces. If you can reduce the pressure on the joint, it won’t get so irritated if there is some arthritis in there. For example, if you have arthritis in your knee, doing exercises to get your quadriceps (thigh) muscles stronger, will help take pressure off the knee joint. Having stronger glute (bum) muscles will take pressure of the hip and lower back.

So, regular movements against resistance to work on strengthening muscles, again without putting too much pressure through joints can work really well.


Using a hot water bottle or a wheat pack you put in the microwave on the affected joint is often quite soothing. Heat improves the blood supply to the area, often reducing pooling of inflammation and also soothing the nervous system, usually resulting in a reduction in pain.

15 to 20 minutes of moderate heat, 2 or 3 times per day can be really effective in reducing pain from arthritic joints. This is why lots of people with arthritis move to warmer climates. If that’s an option we would always recommend that, though we do love the sun so we are a little biased with that advice.

Joint rubs

Most muscle and joints rubs available are not great. We’ve tried lots of them over the years and had feedback from a lot of patients, but most don’t seem to do a lot for many people.

However, we recently came across Harrogate Organics Natural Repair Magnesium Spray and were stunned to find it actually seems to work. We’ve since introduced it into our clinics and have had brilliant feedback from patients with arthritis who have got relief from using it. Therefore, we’re happy to recommend it here. If you want to try a pain-relieving joint rub, try this. It seems to be way better than anything else we’re tried.

Change your diet

Diet has a huge impact on the level of inflammation in the body. If you have arthritis, you want to do everything you can to reduce that level. If you can do that, chances are your pain will reduce.

Obviously, optimising your diet is quite a personal thing, but general rules to work from are:

  • Reduce processed foods
  • Limit alcohol consumption
  • Maximise intake of naturally anti-inflammatory foods such as turmeric, ginger, olive oil, leafy vegetables, nuts and oily fish (you can see why the Mediterranean diet is so popular)

There are endless supplements you can use. Again, we’ve tried lots of them, and our absolute favourite by a mile is The Tumeric Co shots. They have so much more Turmeric in them than any other supplement and so much less processing too. The result is a shot (that tastes way nicer than you’d think) that has been scientifically shown to help reduce the inflammation in your body. You can read all about them, and get yours on the Tumeric Co website here, and if you use the code TRUEPHYSIO20, you’ll get a 20% discount.

Not only does diet have an impact on inflammation in the body, it also has an impact on your weight of course. If you are struggling with arthritis in joints that take your weight such as your hips or knees, then losing a bit of weight can really help. For examples, losing 1lb, actually reduces the pressure going through your knees by 4lbs because of the mechanics of our bodies.

Can Physio help Arthritis?

You’re on a Physio’s website, of course we would say yes, but there is genuinely a huge amount we can do to help people with arthritis and it saddens us when people give in and put up with it.

Apart from anything else, we can make sure you have the right mobility and strengthening exercises for your specific condition and abilities. We can work with you on pacing activities and progression of exercises so that you can improve over time.

Beyond that, massage, joint mobilisations and various other treatments can also help reduce pain. Again, they are not magic, they don’t eliminate the arthritis, but if they reduce your pain, you can move more, get stronger and reduce the impact of arthritis in the longer term.

So simply, can Physio help with Arthritis? Yes, yes it can, along with a range of other things too which we can guide you in.

Don’t give up

When people are told they have arthritis, a lot of them feel it signals a slow decline and give up on the things they enjoyed. It may sound dramatic, but we see it endlessly in clinic and it’s sad to see.

Arthritis is a natural part of getting older, but if it is causing you some pain, please don’t give in and think that’s it for the rest of time. There is so much that can be done to help.

Here to help

We are here to help in any way we can. If you have any questions about your specific condition, please get in touch. If you would like to know more about how we might be able to help, again please get in touch or get an appointment booked with a Physiotherapist

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