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What is septic arthritis?

Septic arthritis is an infection of a joint in the body and can occur at any age. If bacteria get in the joint then it will become infected and result in septic arthritis. The most commonly affected joints are the knee, hip and shoulder and it is possible for more than one joint to be affected at the same time. Although septic arthritis is rare, it is important that it is treated immediately to avoid any long term complications. The main causes of septic arthritis are via the bloodstream, following an injury or during an operation. Other causes of septic arthritis include:
  • If you already suffer from rheumatoid arthritis
  • A poor immune system or recovering from an illness
  • Use of drugs
  • Bone infection (osteomyelitis)
  • Joint prosthesis such as an artificial hip, knee or ankle joint
Medical treatment for septic arthritis includes antibiotics and possibly draining of the joint to remove all of the infection so it doesn’t spread elsewhere in the body. In rare cases, part or all of a joint may need replacing with prosthetic material.

Following any of these options, you may be inactive for a period of time while you recover. It is important that you begin your rehabilitation as soon as possible after your treatment and physiotherapy is an effective way to facilitate your recovery and help you return to your normal activities of daily living. have specialists physiotherapists that are experienced in devising rehabilitation programmes for individuals recovering from septic arthritis.

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

What are the symptoms of septic arthritis?

There are a number of different symptoms of septic arthritis and your physiotherapy programme created by will be tailored to help reduce your main symptoms. Physiotherapy is beneficial as it often targets more than one symptom at the same time, facilitating your recovery. Potential symptoms include:

How is septic arthritis diagnosed?

A number of tests are usually needed to diagnose septic arthritis as well as a comprehensive physical assessment of your signs and symptoms. It is useful to see your physiotherapist soon after you have had confirmation of septic arthritis to maximise your recovery and prevent long term complications. Possible tests to diagnose septic arthritis include:
  • Blood tests
  • Examination of symptoms
  • X-ray
  • MRI scan

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

How will physiotherapy help with septic arthritis?

Physiotherapy following septic arthritis will help strengthen your joint and the surrounding muscles again which may have weakened during a period of inactivity. It will also help pace your recovery so you are able to return to your normal activities of daily living as fast and safely as possible. Your physiotherapist at will individualise your rehabilitation programme to your specific needs and goals. Physiotherapy can help in the following ways:

What physiotherapy will be used for septic arthritis?

The physiotherapy you receive depends on your symptoms and the severity of the septic arthritis. will encourage you to take an active role in your rehabilitation programme and the physiotherapy will be tailored to your goals. Physiotherapy may include:

Soft tissue massage of the connective planta fascia tissue under the foot.Above: Soft tissue massage of the connective planta fascia tissue under the foot.


Septic arthritis is an infection caused by bacteria in one or more joints and can occur for a number of reasons. Treatment includes a course of antibiotics and draining infected fluid from the joint. Following this, it is important that a comprehensive rehabilitation programme is started to prevent any long term complications. Physiotherapy is a very successful way to maximise your recovery from septic arthritis and help you return to a normal active lifestyle. Please call on 0330 088 7800 to book an appointment today. Alternatively, book an appointment online today!

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