There are so many different kinds of arthritis!
Essentially, arthritis means inflammation of one or more joints. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), there are more than 100 different kinds of arthritis. Most of our clients with arthritis have osteoarthritis; also known as degenerative or ‘wear and tear’ arthritis. The most commonly affected joints are the spine, hips, knees, feet and hands. We occasionally see clients with rheumatoid, psoriatic arthritis and fibromyalgia, and less frequently a really rare type.
A simple view of arthritis separates it into two categories. Many types are associated with immune system dysfunction. Degenerative conditions have a large mechanical contribution to their development, with poor alignment, muscle imbalance and overuse or repetitive activities contributing to the development of disease.
The goals of treatment are:
- To manage pain
- To minimize joint damage
- To maintain or improve function
We offer treatment options that can significantly contribute to these goals, for both categories of the disease. To manage pain and minimize joint damage, we use laser.
Laser therapy reduces the inflammation seen in the hot, swollen and tender joints associated with arthritis; and provides pain relief. It also works systemically through its ability to stimulate the immune system; and this makes it a viable treatment choice for the arthritis associated with immune system dysfunction. A neat phenomenon we sometimes see in the clinic is that a client with several inflamed joints will see all of them improve after laser treatment, even though only one joint was treated. Even better results occur if all inflamed joints are treated; but as this is not practical, we often rotate the joint treated, targeting only the most painful during a treatment session.
To maintain or improve function, we strongly recommend physiotherapy. Following an assessment, our physiotherapist will provide exercise to align joints, strengthen muscles and improve balance. These exercises are geared to your ability, and can range from very gentle to quite intensive. A wonderful thing about movement and exercise is that it is its own reward! You feel better after exercise, which makes exercise an important approach to managing arthritic pain. Within tolerance, the more you do, the better you feel. For those with hip and knee osteoarthritis, we use the GLA:D protocols as an exercise model.
Arthritis you didn’t know You had
From the perspective of a physiotherapist, arthritis you didn't know you had is most interesting. Occasionally we are treating a client, perhaps for back pain, when the X-Ray report that the doctor had ordered arrives…moderate arthritis. That puts a whole different spin on client expectations, their fears and their commitment to treatment. Another common scenario is a whiplash client, who has arthritis in her neck. And again, our client is concerned, uncertain about how the arthritis will impact healing.
When you think about it, from young adulthood on, there’s a fair chance you'll have a little arthritis. We see a lot of injuries and pain conditions that we think are slow to heal…could they be harboring an unknown degenerative arthritis? An X-ray would confirm, but there’s a fair chance it is so. In these instances, we recommend that laser be added to the treatment plan.
Physio + Laser is a superior treatment option for arthritis, and for all other injuries that involve an arthritic joint!