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Rheumatoid Arthritis and the Role of Physio

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Rheumatoid arthritis or RA is an autoimmune disease. Autoimmune diseases are where our body starts to attack itself and in this case it attacks the cells, which line the joints. RA is typical in that people can experience ‘flare ups’ or times when pain, swelling and dysfunction are worse than usual.  These flare-ups can make you feel tired and unwell and in some cases lungs, heart and eyes can be affected.

RA commonly affects the smaller joints of the body first, for instance, the knuckles of the fingers, toes and wrists. The joints can become very swollen, red, hot and painful.  Women are more affected than men and RA usually occurs around 40 to 70 years of age.  RA differs from osteoarthritis in that it’s an inflammatory condition and the former is more of a ‘wear and tear’ disease. However, over time, osteoarthritis can develop as the joints become worn due to the flare-ups.

RA can be difficult to diagnose, as there’s no single test for it. If you suspect that you have RA, make an appointment with your GP. They will carry out an assessment and if suspected, refer you onto a rheumatologist, who will conduct a variety of blood tests and a comprehensive assessment.

If you suspect you have this condition there is lots of help out there. You will be given support and advice how to best manage this condition. One of our physiotherapists can come to your home or work and carry out a full assessment. They look at how you are generally moving, walking and will test the strength of your muscles and flexibility.

We can advise on:

  • Exercises and stretches
  • How to manage your pain, using cooling packs and TENS machines.
  • Treatment such as acupuncture, massage and taping
  • Advice on supports
  • How to pace yourself so not to aggravate your pain.
  • General exercise advice, such as walking and swimming.

If you suspect you have RA speak to your GP or physiotherapist. Further information on RA can be found via the National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society website at:

If you are newly diagnosed and want one of our specialist physios to see you at home, contact us today on 0207 884 0374 or email