Rheumatoid Arthritis Awareness Week


18th - 24th June.

What is RA?

During this week we wanted to highlight understanding Rheumatoid arthritis and provide some information about how physical therapy can help manage symptoms of this autoimmune condition.

Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is defined as chronic inflammation of the joints in the body, with a lot of people assuming that its similar to Osteoarthritis; which is characterised by ‘wear and tear’ of the joints in our bodies, it is very different apart from both diseases targeting the joints of our skeletons.

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RA is actually known as an ‘AUTOIMMUNE’ disease, which means that our bodies immune system becomes overactive and mistakenly attacks the joints and soft tissues around the joints - know as the synovial lining, this attack creates swelling and painful joints which are hard to move and lead to fatigue.

Around 400,000 people in the Uk are affected by RA which is about 1% of the population, with women being x 3 more affected than men, commonly its diagnosed of patients who are between 40-60 yrs old, but can develop in teens and elderly.

The small joints are generally affected first in the hands and feet, and then the larger joints and spine, known as the axial skeleton.

Research has been able to explain how the disease occurs but little is know about why it occurs, genetic factors may have a small influence and also environmental factors such as trauma, virus and poor lifestyle choices.

Management of RA

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RA today is well managed and supported here in the UK. RA is managed via drugs and pain relief which the patient will be on for the future, the consequence of miss management will lead to joint damage and chronic painful symptoms.

RA is irreversible however can be well managed with drugs prescribed by a Rheumatology Consultant and alongside physical therapy and lifestyle advice.

Clinical management.

Chiropractors cannot treat or resolve RA, chiropractors and other physical therapists can achieve with therapy sessions a slow down in the muscle dysfunction of RA as well as providing some pain relief.

The aim of physical care is to prevent future disability and increase the functional capacity of the body.

Chiropractors will not use any form of manipulation on the joints of a patient diagnosed with RA, nor if we suspect a diagnosis of this and this will lead to further pain and stiffening.

Treatments sessions involve massage and muscle work to create good muscular endurance and healthy soft tissues around inflamed joints. All treatment is gentle and tailored to the individual patient's needs.

The most important factor we encourage when helping RA patients is exercise therapy, it has been found that RA patients will decrease exercise and have a loss in muscle mass and strength - which in turn may impact the affected joints further.

Here at the Bristol Chiropractic, Sports and Family Clinic, we offer advice in improving flexibility, muscular endurance, aerobic capacity (walking, cycling) coordination and balance - which in turn aims to lead to less chance of falls.

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References

  1. Maura D. Iversen et. Al, Predictors of the use of physical therapy services among patients with rheumatoid arthritis © 2011 American Physical Therapy Association, Issue 91, pages 65-67

  2. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0194917 April 9, 2018

  3. https://www.nras.org.uk/what-is-ra-article​

  4. SARAH Trial Team et al., Strengthening and stretching for rheumatoid arthritis of the hand (SARAH): design of a randomised controlled trial of a hand and upper limb exercise intervention - ISRCTN89936343, Trial Team et al. BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders 2012, 13:230


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