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An Arthritis Overview

Posted on 19th May 2014 by

Arthritis means joint inflammation – arthro = joint and itis = inflammation. It’s an umbrella term used to cover many different types of joint inflammation.

Many people know they have arthritis or have heard of arthritis, but sometimes aren’t sure which one they have or what the different types are. This blog will cover the 4 most common types of arthritis and give you more information on what it is, which joints are affected and how it can be treated.

Physiotherapy has a crucial role in helping all types of arthritis by helping to maximise muscle strength, joint mobility and flexibility and supporting functional independence, so helping you to keep doing the things you enjoy.

Osteoarthritis

This is the most common type of arthritis and tends to develop gradually over time.

What Happens?

The cartilage at the joint becomes worn and rough, sometimes wearing out completely. This leads to osteophytes, or small bony growths, forming at the edges of the joint to try and replace the cartilage. The joint space becomes narrowed and tissues surrounding the joint can thicken. Often, there is inflammation making the joint stiff and painful to move.

Which Joints?

Osteoarthritis is most common in the hands, knees, hips, feet and spine.

How Is It Treated?

Medication: Analgesics for pain relief, non-steroidal anti-inflammatories for reducing inflammation and pain & steroids to reduce severe inflammation.

Surgery: Arthroscopy – to clean out the joint and remove any irritants & in more severe cases, joint replacements – most common in hips and knees.

What Can You Do To Help?

  • Keep mobile
  •  Strengthen muscles to help support joints
  • Learn to pace activities

Rheumatoid Arthritis

This is an inflammatory disease, affecting joints and tendons. It tends to present with episodes of ‘flare ups’.

What Happens?

Inflammation usually helps to heal the body, but with Rheumatoid Arthritis, prolonged inflammation causes damage. The immune system starts to attack joints, causing the prolonged inflammation. The joint capsule also becomes inflamed, leading to pain, stiffness and swelling.

Which Joints?

Rheumatoid arthritis is most common in the neck, hands and feet.

How Is It Treated?

Medication: Non-steroidal anti-inflammatories and disease modifying anti-rheumatic drugs to reduce inflammation and slow the damage being caused. Steroids may be used in severe cases of inflammation.

Surgery: Joint replacement surgery if joint function is lost or at risk.

What Can You Do To Help?

  • Learn to pace yourself and accept help on difficult tasks
  • Speak to an Occupational Therapist and Physiotherapist for help with activities of daily living.

Ankylosing Spondylitis

This is another form of inflammatory arthritis that affects the spine. Ankylosing means stiffening and spondylitis means inflammation of the spine.

What Happens?

The joints in the lower part of the spine become painful and inflamed, where the sacrum joins the pelvis. This inflammation then starts to travel up the spine, affecting vertebra at higher levels. The inflammation causes scar tissue to form in the joint spaces between the vertebra, reducing movement. Over time, the scar tissue may become calcified – turning into a bony-like tissue, which fuses the joints together and limits the available movement in the spine.

Which Joints?

Ankylosing Spondylitis mainly affects the spine, but can also affect the hips and shoulders.

How Is It Treated?

Medication: Non-steroidal anti-inflammatories and disease modifying anti-rheumatic drugs to reduce inflammation and slow the damage being caused. Steroids may be used in severe cases of inflammation.

What Can You Do To Help?

  • Keep active
  • Give up smoking – AS can lead to restrictions in rib movements and smoking will reduce lung function further

Gout

This type of arthritis responds well to treatment and further joint damage can be avoided with effective treatment.

What Happens?

Gout is caused by high levels of uric acid crystals building up in the joints. This happens when levels of uric acid are too high in the body – either because more is produced or not being effectively removed as a waste substance. Once the uric acid forms crystals around the joints, there may move into the joint space – this is when the pain, swelling and inflammation starts. It tends to last a few days and then settle, letting the joint return to normal.

Which Joints?

Most commonly affects the big toe joint, but can also affect the ankles, knees, hands, wrists and elbows.

How Is It Treated?

Severe acute attacks will be treated with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. For people affected regularly, preventative medication like allopurinol or febuxostat may be given to stop uric acid build up in the body.

What Can You Do To Help?

Drink plenty of water Avoid alcohol and red meat – these can increase uric acid levels


Increasing Your Activity With Technology

Posted on 16th May 2014 by

Following on from our last blog – The Magic 10,000 steps – I thought it would be useful to write a Activity Trackers goPhysiolittle piece about how to actually monitor your daily activity.

The most simple way of monitoring how many steps you take a day (and therefore how active you are) is a pedometer. You can pick up a basic pedometer for under £5 (as cheap as 65p) and the function is to count how many steps you are taking by measuring the motion of your hips. Reliability will vary – but these devices will certainly give an indication of your step number.

As with everything now, technology has progressed significantly and there has been a surge in the last couple of years of ‘Activity Monitors’.

Did you know by the way, that there are now more mobile connective devices on the planet than people – scary!

The main ones currently on the market include the Jawbone Up, FitBit, Nike Fuelband, Garmin VivoFit to name a few.

Research has indicated that even the most basic devices can help increase activity levels.

I have owned a FitBit for some time now and I can honestly say it was a significant turning point for me in increasing my general activity levels and changing my lifestyle.

Basically, what the FitBit (and other activity bands) do, is similar to a glorified pedometer. But it goes way beyond that. They can also measure:

  • Sleep patterns
  • Calories
  • Distance
  • Heart rate
  • Activity intensity

Each brand of device measures a different combination of measurements and they can also be integrated with other apps such as My Fitness Pal or Garmin Connect. So, if you’re looking to buy an activity monitor, it’s worth doing some research into what factors are most important to you.

This sort of thing suits me – I like a challenge, I like numbers (and measurements!) & I like to have a goal. So I found the FitBit really motivated me.

More recently, I purchased a Garmin VivioFit (not that I was unhappy with my FitBit, but a kind friend of mine works at Garmin!). So, what follows is my personal experience of using these 2 devices.

FitBit

I have the FitBit Flex.

The Pros

  • Syncing is easy, basically open the app on my iPhone, make sure the FitBit is nearby and it syncs.
  • I love the ‘Active Minutes’ figure. You can read more about this here, but basically it measure how many minutes a day you are ‘very active’ – a good tool to measure against the recommended 30 minutes/day.
  • You can set alarms. The wristband buzzes gently, a nice way to be woken up or reminded of something. These are set on your app or web based dashboard.
  • The buzz it gives you when you reach your goal.
  • The scales – measure & track your weight and % body fat and sync automatically.
  • The dashboard & app are really easy to use and interpret.

The Cons

  • My wrist band has broken once (although FitBit did send a free replacement). I have heard of others breaking too.
  • Having to charge it up – it doesn’t take long but is annoying having to take it off not charge.
  • Minimal band information. You only get illuminated dots on the band, so need to check your app for further info. There is due to be a FitBit Force released which will display more info on the wrist band, but no UK date as yet as far as I’m aware.

The Garmin VivoFit

The Pros

  • You can see the time, steps, calories etc. all on a clear digital display on the wristband.
  • You don’t have to charge it – it comes with a 1 year battery apparently.
  • It adjusts your goals according to your activity – always pushing you a bit!
  • You can sync it automatically with a Garmin heart rate monitor.

The Cons

  • Syncing takes a little longer and isn’t automatic – you have to press a button on the device.
  • Straps aren’t interchangeable, i.e. you buy the device in 1 colour and ca’t change the strap.
  • It doesn’t monitor ‘very active minutes’.
  • No compatible scales/body fat monitor that I’m aware of.

Both have bits I really like and also not so keen on (but nothing’s perfect!). For now, I’m veering towards the Garmin, mainly due to the display and not having to charge the battery!

You can read full reviews of the many activity trackers online – there’s loads of them, here’s just a few I found Time.com, The Wire Cutter, PC Mag – although it’s work noting a few of these were written prior to the release of the Garmin VivoFit.

There’s no doubt that such devices are in their infancy, who know’s what we’ll be wearing or writing about in a year’s time. They’re no longer purely the domain of ‘techy’s’, wearable technology is set to become a part of everyone life!

Written by Fiona, goPhysio’s Non-Clinical Director (all views are her own)


National Arthritis Week – FREE Drop in Physio Advice Session

Posted on 15th May 2014 by

To coincide with Arthritis Care week, running from 19th – 25th May 2014, each day that week we’ll be posting a new blog article on arthritis, finishing with a drop in session on Friday 23rd from 11am – 12pm with one of or Physiotherapists at the Chandler’s Ford Clinic. You can come along and ask any questions or queries you may have on all sorts of things to do with arthritis, such as ideas and advice on how to manage your arthritis, what you can do to prevent it from getting any worse or tips on how to care for your joints and reduce the risk of developing arthritis. You don’t need to have arthritis to attend – everyone is welcome! Just give us a call on 023 8025 3317 or email us mail@gophysiotherapy.co.uk for more information or feel free to pop in on the day.


The blog topics we’ll be posting next week will include:
• What is arthritis?
• Facts and Figures
• How can Physiotherapy help with arthritis?
• How to live with arthritis
• Arthritis Research