Physiotherapy for Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis


Arthritis is a disease that affects the joints connecting the bones. Arthritis affects 1.5 million Australians. The condition can cause both acute and chronic pain and swollen joints. People with arthritis experience pain, stiffness and discomfort during motion.

Arthritis has two major forms: osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Osteoarthritis occurs when joint space filled by cartilage is damaged and rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that affects the joints.

Physiotherapy for arthritis is performed with two goals as areas of focus. These are improving mobility and re establishing the function of joints affected by arthritis.

A physio will act as a diagnostician, a coach and a hands-on holistic provider. They help patients strengthen joints suffering from arthritis by employing various stretches. If left untreated, arthritis can cause an increase in pain.

Physiotherapy for Osteoarthritis (OA)

Osteoarthritis primarily affects knee joints, hips, spine and fingers. It is categorised by wear and tear to the cartilage between joints. Damage may have arisen from overuse or trauma. Physiotherapy is recommended as a treatment option catering to these areas because of its benefits.

A benefit of physiotherapy treatment applied to these examples is improved physical functioning, another is reduced pain. Modalities used by physiotherapists include exercise programs, massages, provision of walking aids and electrotherapy. These are all performed to increase the range of movement of joints suffering from pain and swelling.

Hydrotherapy is another modality used by physiotherapists to treat osteoarthritis. It utilizes water to treat arthritis. Exercises such as stretching, aerobics and strengthening are performed in the water.

Acupuncture and thermotherapy have also shown great benefits in short term relief of pain.

Physiotherapy for Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)

People with rheumatoid arthritis have their body’s immune system affect the joints of the body. Physiotherapy for rheumatoid arthritis employ more diagnostic work than during treatment of osteoarthritis. Assessment involves:

  • Evaluation of the gait
  • Daily exercise routines
  • Range of motion of joints
  • Muscle strength test
  • Posture evaluation
  • Respiratory function.

Following evaluation of these metrics, a standard unit of measurement called an arthritis impact measurement scale is attributed to the patient.

  • Elements of physiotherapy used in treatment of rheumatoid arthritis include:
  • Hot and cold applications
  • Electrical stimulation – transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) therapy
  • Hydrotherapy.

TENS therapy is one form of electrotherapy most commonly used in treating rheumatoid arthritis. Studies have shown that patients experience less pain after receiving TENS therapy once a week for approximately a month. Hydrotherapy has also demonstrated great benefits in palliative treatment in cases where acute and chronic pain has manifested.

It can be concluded that patients suffering from arthritis can get immense relief upon consulting a physiotherapist. With diagnosis and performance of prescribed strengthening exercises, pain will be reduced and range of motion increased. Advancements are continually being made in the area of physiotherapy to improve the quality of life in patients affected by arthritis.

If you are suffering from osteo or rheumatoid arthritis, please contact Erko Physio to schedule an appointment for physical therapy. Erko Physio is open five days a week, 8:00 am to 4:30pm. Call us on 02 9557 9272 to book a consultation.