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What is rheumatoid arthritis?

Rheumatoid arthritis is an inflammatory condition which can affect a number of joints in the body. Usually, the articular surface (lining) and synovium (fluid filled sac coving the joints surface) become inflamed which can then interfere with your normal hobbies or activities of daily living. The inflammation occurs as a result of the body’s immune system attacking various joints although the reason for this is not known. The inflammation may also affect the cartilage and the ligaments within a joint which can be very painful.

Soft tissue massage of the palma fascia to relieve pain and stiffnessAbove: Soft tissue massage of the palma fascia to relieve pain and stiffness

There are a number of symptoms that may be experienced if you have rheumatoid arthritis and these can vary at different times. Physiotherapy is a very effective way of reducing these symptoms and has specialist physiotherapists that can provide you with a comprehensive treatment programme that is appropriate to meet your individual needs.

Potential symptoms may include: The most commonly affected joints are:
  • Shoulders
  • Wrists
  • Metacarpophalangeal( MCP) joints (knuckles)
  • Proximal interphalangeal (PIP) joints of the hand (middle joints of fingers)
  • Knees
  • Ankles
  • Proximal interphalangeal (PIP) joints of the foot (middle joints of toes)
Most people with rheumatoid arthritis experience flare ups at different times and it is during those times that symptoms are most severe. Therefore it is important to develop an action plan with your physiotherapist at that can help you manage your flare ups most effectively to allow you to remain as active as possible during these times.

Massage and mobilisations of the joint and connective tissue of the kneeAbove: Massage and mobilisations of the joint and connective tissue of the knee

How is rheumatoid arthritis diagnosed?

There are a number of tests used to diagnose rheumatoid arthritis and it is often the combined results of these tests that confirm the disease. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned above, it is important that you go to your GP as soon as possible. Early diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis will provide a more effective treatment. The tests used include:
  • Blood tests
  • X-rays
  • Ultrasound scanning
  • Number of symptoms
Once rheumatoid arthritis has been confirmed, it is important that you begin physiotherapy as soon as possible to optimise the management of your symptoms. will provide you with a full assessment and comprehensive treatment programme including a home exercise programme to help you take control of your condition.

Mobilisations of the thoracic vertebrea to relieve pain and stiffnessAbove: Mobilisations of the thoracic vertebrea to relieve pain and stiffness

How will physiotherapy help with rheumatoid arthritis?

Physiotherapy can help manage and reduce your symptoms in a number of ways. Your physiotherapist at will encourage you to take an active role in your treatment programme which will help you to work towards your goals. Physiotherapy can help in the following ways:

What physiotherapy will be used for rheumatoid arthritis?

There are a variety of physiotherapy options that can be used to treat rheumatoid arthritis. The choice of treatment will depend on a number of reasons including your symptoms and the severity of the condition. Your physiotherapist at will work with you to design an individually tailored programme to optimise your treatment and help your remain as active as possible. Potential physiotherapy treatments may include:


Rheumatoid arthritis is an inflammatory condition that mainly affects the joints of the shoulder, knee, wrist, hand and foot. The inflammation is caused by an attack of the body’s own immune system on the tissues in these joints. You may experience stiffness, swelling, tiredness and pain as symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. Physiotherapy is an effective way to reduce these symptoms and helps promote self-management so you can keep doing all the activities of daily living that you usually do. Please call on 0330 088 7800 today to book an appointment with one of our specialist physiotherapists. You can also book an appointment online

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