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PHYSIOTHERAPY FOR ARTHRITIS: IT'S NOT A DEATH SENTENCE

Most people think that a diagnosis of “arthritis” is like a death sentence. “Oh no, my doctor just told me I have arthritis!” It is not a terrible affliction that is going to leave you suffering for the end of your days. But first of all, what is arthritis? The word can be very misused.

Arthritis affects what we call “synovial joints” or joints with a certain kind of cartilage. You can have systematic arthritis, the true arthritis, which is an autoimmune disorder that attacks the cartilage of certain joints and creates inflammation or the “itis”, or you can have wear and tear arthritis as a result of poor posture and bad movement mechanics around the joints. This wear and tear does not just affect synovial joints, but all joints. When it affects other joints, it is called degenerative joint disease or syndrome.

If a joint is hot, red and swollen, you rest it. But if it is not hot and swollen, then you need to exercise. Unfortunately the large or small inflammation that comes with arthritis or degeneration will cause your local supporting muscles to turn off. This leads to a bad cycle of less support around the joint, more movement and further wear and tear or more arthritis/degeneration, leaving you weaker, in more pain, and making it more difficult for you to move.

A good assessment by your physiotherapist will help you to re-balance your muscles around the joint. This helps to get rid of most of your pain. Posture is also important as bad posture creates the imbalanced muscles around the joint and leads to pain. Good posture comes from a strong, deep core. What is deep core, you may ask? It is the deep supporting muscles of your abdominals and low back which work at a low level for long periods of time. They should automatically turn on whenever you move as they anticipate movement. If you have muscle imbalance, pain or poor posture, these deep muscles turn off creating poor posture and imbalanced pulleys.So should I just go to a gym and start exercising? Well you can, but if a joint has arthritis or arthrosis (the state of the joint when not in inflammation), you need to exercise smart, not hard. Paramount to exercising healthy with arthritis is muscle balance around the joints. A joint is like a pulley. The ropes moving it should be equal in length or flexibility and have good strength. If one rope is short or inflexible and the other is long and weak, this is the imbalance that creates further wear and tear on the pulley or joint.

So there is hope! Work smart, not hard and always have the dog wag the tail and not the tail wag the dog.

 

– Christene Misener, PT

 

Christene earned her Diploma in Advanced Manual and Manipulative Therapy (FCAMPT) in 1999 and uses it in conjunction with an active approach in correcting orthopedic and neurologically based movement dysfunctions. She has also completed all of Shirley Sarhmann muscle balance dysfunction courses as well as all local and global levels of Kinetic Control, a muscle activation/stabilization and rebalancing program. Christene has over 26 years of clinical experience and has been practicing acupuncture since 1994. She is a Fellow and member of the Canadian Academy of Manipulative Therapists, a group of skilled physiotherapists with extensive post-graduate education in manual therapy and clinical reasoning, who have passed an internationally recognized accreditation process.

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