Rheumatoid arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that causes inflammation in your joints. The main symptoms are joint pain and swelling. It’s the second most common form of arthritis in the UK (Arthritis Research UK, 2014).

It can affect adults at any age, but most commonly starts between the ages of 40 and 50.  About three times as many women as men are affected.  The hands, feet and wrists are commonly affected, but it can also cause problems in other parts of the body.

There may be periods where your symptoms become worse, known as a flare-up or flare.  A flare can be difficult to predict, but with treatment it is possible to decrease the number of flares and minimise or prevent long-term damage to the joints.

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease.  This means that your immune system – which usually fights infection – attacks the joints by mistake, making them swollen, stiff and painful.

Over time, this can damage the joint itself, the cartilage and nearby bone.

It's not clear what triggers this problem with the immune system, although you are at an increased risk if you are a woman, you have a family history of rheumatoid arthritis, or you smoke.

There is no cure for rheumatoid arthritis, but early diagnosis and appropriate treatment enables many people with rheumatoid arthritis to have periods of months or even years between flares and to be able to lead full lives and continue regular employment.  The main treatment options include:

  • supportive treatments, such as physiotherapy, help to keep you mobile and find ways around any problems you have with daily activities
  • medication that is taken in the long-term to relieve symptoms and slow the progress of the condition

At the Centre for Clinical Physiotherapy we offer a wide range of services, knowledge and expertise to effectively treat and manage rheumatoid arthritis.  Your physiotherapist will work with you and your rheumatologist /GP to develop a programme that helps maintain your mobility, function and quality of life. Treatments are delivered by highly skilled and experienced physiotherapists who are passionate about delivering a quality service and the best possible results for you.

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