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Rheumatoid Arthritis from a Physiotherapist’s Perspective

Posted by Eamonn Brady on

Sinead Brogan is a Chartered Physiotherapist and runs FlexPhysio Physiotherapy Clinic at Whelehans Pharmacy, Pearse St, Mullingar. To book an appointment or ask a question call Sinead at 083 1722171 

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a long-term, progressive, unpredictable disease characterised by acute and chronic inflammation of the joints in the body. This results in pain, swelling and stiffness which can subsequently lead to joint damage and associated disability. RA is known as an 'autoimmune disease' because it is caused when the body's immune system, which normally fights infection, starts to attack healthy joints.

The cause of RA is unknown and at present there is no cure. However, understanding about this disease has improved and there is now more information available about effective treatments that can help ease pain and slow down progression of symptoms.  It is essential that these treatments are commenced early to minimise damage to the joints.

A multi-disciplinary approach is recommended for the management of RA.  In addition to medical and pharmacological input, there is strong evidence for the role of physiotherapeutic intervention for this condition. One of the main goals of physiotherapy to is to avert or limit joint damage in order to safe-guard future function and reduce the rate of disability.  A chartered physiotherapist can undertake a thorough musculoskeletal assessment, taking into account hot and inflamed joints, mechanical deformities, fatigue, deconditioning, co-existing conditions and other psychosocial issues. Armed with this information, a specific individually tailored treatment plan can be designed and implemented. 

Regular exercise is an important aspect of the management plan and greatly encouraged. Pain and stiffness in those with RA can lead to avoidance of movement. This in turn causes restriction in joint range of motion, development of contractures and muscle wasting (atrophy), all of which can contribute to joint instability and a further increase in fatigue. When in an acute flare up of RA, emphasis is on decreasing pain and swelling and general rest. As this point gentle range of motion exercises are advocated within pain limits to try and maintain soft tissue and joint flexibility.  During a flare up, muscle weight, fibre size and strength decreases due to periods of immobilisation. Hence, it is recommended to start exercising again as soon as the acute pain subsides.  A chartered physiotherapist can prescribe specific exercises to prevent muscle inhibition and wasting.  An exercise program generally involves range of motion exercises, strengthening for the upper and lower limbs and core and some aerobic exercises. The physiotherapist can also provide education and advice regarding the balance between rest and activity and the best way to manage inflamed joints.

Physiotherapy service in Whelehans

Chartered Physiotherapist Sinead Brogan MISCP runs FlexPhysio Physiotherapy Service in the therapy rooms at Whelehans Pharmacy in Mullingar. Sinead has an Honours Physiotherapy degree and has experience  working in Midland Regional Hospital Mullingar and private practice in New Zealand, Australia and Ireland, treating a wide variety of musculoskeletal issues including acute and chronic sports injuries, repetitive strain and postural problems, spinal dysfunctions and pregnancy related issues. Sinead has also completed a Masters in Neuromuscular Physiotherapy in UCD. Sinead is interested in sports injuries, having worked with many Gaelic and rugby teams providing pitch-side cover. Sinead is a Stott Pilates instructor and teaches pre and post-partum pregnancy, beginners and intermediate Pilate’s classes. She is also a Trigger Point Dry Needling practitioner and uses this technique with great results. Reduced physiotherapy rates for over 60’s and affiliated sport clubs. Call Sinead at 083 1722171 to book.

FlexPhysio Physiotherapy service at Whelehans Pharmacy, 38 Pearse St, Mullingar (Opposite the Greville Arms Hotel). Book by calling Sinead at 083 1722171

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