Rheumatoid Arthritis and Physiotherapy

January 28, 2014

By Alice Thompson

Whilst having a browse through Arthritis UK, I came across an article which highlighted that levels of depression and anxiety in people with rheumatoid arthritis are higher than previously reported. The recent study [1] concluded that patients with severe active disease, who are waiting to go onto a biological therapy, should be routinely screened for depression by their doctors.

If you know someone with the disease you will know that rheumatoid arthritis is a serious, inflammatory, auto-immune condition that affects the joints and the body’s internal organs leading to chronic pain and fatigue. New biological therapies have transformed the treatment of people with severe disease in the past decade, although some patients do not adequately respond to these drugs.

To me, this article read all very doom and gloom and generally we Brits are not great at talking about serious mental health issues but depression is a condition that must be addressed and this study hit the issue head on. From my own experience as a physiotherapist I would say that anyone who struggles with their normal functional activities and suffers with daily pain is at risk of depression. Fortunately physiotherapy can provide help and support to these people. Exercise is a particularly successful treatment for people suffering with arthritis.

Last year Queen Alexandra Hospital in Portsmouth [2] commenced the ‘Ten out of Ten’ scheme which was the first of its kind for people with the autoimmune disease in the UK. It gives patients the chance to take structured classes in disciplines such as tai chi, healthy walking, pilates and water-based exercises and it has been a huge success.

People with rheumatoid arthritis need to remain as active and mobile as possible to keep their joints strong and supple and to maintain a good quality of life. Without the necessary motivation and encouragement this is often difficult, so structured exercise sessions like these are absolutely ideal.

Physiotherapists can give you the confidence you may require to begin a regular exercise routine. We can show you ways of doing exercise that does not put strain on your joints and advise the best time to carry out these exercises. Often if you are feeling depressed or anxious the last thing you want to do is get dressed and move around, you want to curl up into a corner and become invisible but this will not help your mental or physical symptoms. Bite the bullet, book in to see a physiotherapist and make a start on a less painful, more active lifestyle that will have you feeling better on the inside and out!
1) ‘Impact of psychological factors on subjective disease activity assessments in patients with severe rheumatoid arthritis’ was published in Arthritis Care and Research on December 10 2013.
2) “NHS exercise scheme benefits patients with rheumatoid arthritis” April 01 2011

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