Arthritis is a pain. With the number of sufferers set to increase in this country, it’s best you start preparing now. Sorry.
Arthritis affects over 3.85 million Australians, with this number set to increase to 7 million by 2050.
Arthritis is not a singular disease, there are over 100 types of arthritis including osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and psoriatic arthritis, to name the most common. With so many different variations of arthritis, how is it possible to find “a one size fits all” remedy?
We spoke to Yves Silveria, a musculoskeletal physiotherapist professional to find out how people can manage their pain. He said, “Many people think that nothing can be done to relieve the symptoms, however this couldn’t be further from the truth. There are many ways to reduce the effects of arthritis. It is essentially inflammation of the joint, which leads to pain and restricted movement. There are ways to reduce these issues. Arthritis is more common than people think and it is not just limited to the elderly, one in ten Australians suffer from this.”
To reduce the impact of arthritis, here are Yves’ top five tips.
Heat and ice
“The issue with arthritis is the inflammation which causes the pain. When applying ice to the affected area, this inflammation, as well as swelling and pain associated with it, is reduced. The coldness causes the blood vessels of the muscle to constrict, which decreases flow of blood and reduces the inflammation. It also helps modulate the pain receptors. This should be done no longer than a 20-minute period and repeated throughout the day. When applying heat, the muscles relax and encourage the damaged tissue to heal. The heat also stimulates blood flow, which in turn improves circulation, lubricates the joint and reduces stiffness. When applying heat, it should be for 20 to 30 minutes long. Alternating between heat and ice therapies can reduce pain and loosen muscles simultaneously. Try using heat packs prior to exercising and ice packs afterwards to get the most out of the therapy.”
“For some people, electrical stimulation devices have become an effective way to manage arthritis pain. Australian health tech companies like PainPod are harnessing the body’s bioelectrical system to moderate and manage pain levels, accelerate recovery and increase performance. This renewed technology can really help in the management of pain. The device contains frequency specific formulations and can act as a portable physiotherapist. This device works by delivering bio-electrical nerve stimulation pulses through the skin to the nerve endings in the affected area, blocking the pain signals from travelling to the brain. This can be particularly handy when dealing with pain in your physiotherapist’s out-of-office hours.”
Use rigid tape
“Taping is very important with arthritis and can be the difference between severe pain and pain-free movement. We use taping to offload the joint so if there is a joint that is inflamed or irritated, taping can remove the pressure from that area. This can improve strength and speed of that joint’s function and reduce pain. The best thing to do is have a physiotherapist tape the affected area and after that you can do it yourself from home after buying the tape.”
Sleep and meditation
“A big problem with people who suffer from arthritis is that they can’t sleep because of the pain. However, arthritis pain actually increases when the body doesn’t have enough or sufficient rest. Sleep plays a very important role in arthritis pain relief and is necessary to ease the inflammation of the joints. In order to achieve a good night’s rest it is best to avoid the television, laptop or smart phone two hours prior to sleeping and if you choose to use a device for relief, then use it on the area of concern prior to falling asleep. Meditation can also help with arthritis pain, and numerous scientific studies have found that meditation is beneficial for people living with chronic pain. Mediation helps to reduce pain intensity and improve functional status.”
Exercise is key – replace activities that aggravate the area
“Exercise is very important for health and wellbeing, particularly for people suffering from arthritis. It reduces joint pain and increases strength and flexibility. What tends to cause arthritis is a weakness in muscle so it is important to strengthen the surrounding muscles of the area to take pressure off that area. It is wise to note that exercise is important, but it needs to be the right type of physical activity. Learn about the area of concern and make sure to avoid activities that aggravate the condition. Instead, swap those activities for other ones more suitable for your condition. For example, if you have osteoarthritis (arthritis in the knee) running can cause the area to become inflamed and worsen with impact. Swap running for bike riding which will keep you moving, strengthen the muscles in the surrounding areas and have less impact on the joints.”