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Man with knee arthritis

Managing the Symptoms of Arthritis

Arthritis is a painful condition which affects the joints, bones and cartilage. It can affect people of all ages and ranges from mild to severe. There are many types of arthritis, and these often affect joints such as the knees, wrists, hips, knuckles and ankles.

Three common types of arthritis are:

  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Gout

Rheumatoid arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease and a common inflammatory form of arthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis occurs when the immune system targets the joints. This results in joint damage and inflammation which causes swelling and pain in the joints.


Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis. Osteoarthritis affects the whole joint including cartilage, bone, ligaments and muscles. Knee arthritis is often caused by osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis is not always painful but during a painful episode there is often pain coming from the local muscles and local soft tissues around the joint.


Gout is a very painful condition where small crystals form around the joint and cause pain, inflammation and swelling. Gout attacks often come on fast as in almost overnight. The joint becomes very painful, red and swollen. Often only one joint is affected at a time in Gout, this is most often the big toe.

Arthritis Treatment

For the majority of arthritis conditions, there are treatments available to help reduce joint irritation and manage symptoms. Treatment will depend on the type of arthritis. Some of the treatments may include medications such as analgesics and anti-inflammatory medicine.

Physiotherapy for arthritis is effective, as often the local soft tissues become tight and painful requiring attention to manage a loss of mobility. Also, arthritis is often accompanied by weakness and abnormal habits of movement around the joint. Your physiotherapist can guide you in strategies to normalise the movement of your affected joint and regain strength and an active lifestyle.

Physio for Arthritis

Physiotherapy is a very effective treatment for many forms of arthritis, particularly rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. Knee osteoarthritis is a common condition that physio can help with. Arthritis knee treatment aims to improve symptoms such as knee swelling, pain and stiffness. The main goals for arthritis knee treatment are to:

  • Reduce pain and inflammation
  • Improve the knee’s range of motion
  • Strengthen surrounding muscles
  • Improve overall function
  • Improve balance
  • Normalise muscles lengths

Arthritis (structural joint wear and tear) is not something that can be reversed but interestingly, we now know that particularly an osteoarthritic joint, if kept strong and mobile, can function surprisingly well with often no pain at all. Physio for arthritis is a very effective way to manage the symptoms and maintain function as you age. Physiotherapists are highly experienced with arthritis, often treating these conditions on a daily basis.

There are also a number of other ways to manage your arthritis symptoms in conjunction with physiotherapy. The main way is to pace yourself. This ensures that you don’t put too much stress on your joints which may cause more pain and inflammation. By trying to do too much at once, you may aggravate the pain and increase your discomfort. Some measures you can take to reduce arthritis symptoms include:

  • Walk small distances at a time
  • Break physical chores up into small segments
  • Get up and stretch regularly when sitting

As your strength improves over time you will usually find your tolerance to activities you once enjoyed increases again. Your physiotherapist can help to guide you on how much you should be increasing your activities at each stage of your rehabilitation.

Director & Senior Physiotherapist at Integrity Physiotherapy, Leslie Trigg, has over 13 years of experience in clinical practice. He has graduated with a degree in Human Biology (Anatomy and Physiology) from Curtin University in 2001 and later completed a Masters of Physiotherapy in 2007. He has tremendous experience in musculoskeletal, orthopaedic, neurosurgical and sports physiotherapy. In his spare time, he enjoys swimming, listening to music and spending time with his family.