What is arthritis?

Arthritis treatment - Central City PhysiotherapyArthritis is an umbrella term for many medical conditions that affect your joints.

Arthritis-related problems include pain, stiffness (especially in the mornings), inflammation and damage to joint cartilage (the tissue that covers the ends of bones, enabling them to move against each another) and surrounding structures. This can result in joint weakness, instability and deformities that can interfere with the most basic daily tasks such as walking, driving a car and preparing food.

As the population ages, the number of people with arthritis is growing. There is a widely held belief that arthritis is simply a consequence of age. But it is not a natural part of ageing. In fact, there are millions of working age sufferers.

There is no known cure for arthritis. However arthritis usually manageable but can impact on your quality of life and include varying degrees of discomfort and pain.

Research suggests that early intervention can delay the onset of the disease and may reduce the number of cases of osteoarthritis.

There are about 100 forms of arthritis, the three most common causes account for 95% of all arthritis. These are:

Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis. It usually affects the 50 plus age group and slightly more women than men. It involves the breakdown of the protective cushion of the cartilage covering the ends of the bones, where two bones meet to form a joint. This can be as a result of wear and tear.

Rheumatoid arthritis
is an autoimmune condition where the immune system mistakenly targets your joints. If not properly treated on-going inflammation can damage joints and other organs. It can start at any age but usually occurs between the ages of 20 and 55. Three times as many women as men are affected. – There are many manifestations.

Gout is believed to be the most painful form of arthritis. It can affect any joint but the first attack usually affects the big toe or another part of the foot. It occurs when there is too much uric acid in your blood. Uric acid turns into crystals in your joints if not treated gout can become chronic causing damage to the joint and bones.

Senior woman working with weights in gym - Central City PhysiotherapyWho is at risk?

While anyone can be affected by arthritis at any stage in their life, there are four groups most at risk:

Older people

Ageing increases the chance of retting arthritis particularly osteoarthritis due to wear and tear on joint.

Sports people

Injuries from contact and other very physical sports are likely to lead to osteoarthritis. Prompt and appropriate treatment at the time of injury lessens the risk of long term damage.


More women get arthritis than men, particularly rheumatoid arthritis. The onset of rheumatoid arthritis tends to be in young women or those of middle age.

Maori and pasifika men

New Zealand Maori and Pasifika men have the highest incidence of gout in the world.

Children can develop arthritis too. Around one child in 1000 is affected by juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA). It is commonly diagnosed between ages one and four, but can occur at any age.


Unfortunately, there is no cure. But the good news is that there are numerous ways to make your life easier with the correct management of the condition. Physiotherapy is a very important part of making your lift less painful, more functional and very enjoyable.

Physiotherapy has been shown by research to reduce the pain and disability associated with arthritis. Seek the professional and helpful advice of your physiotherapist to start enjoying life again today!

How does osteoarthritis effect people?

As you get older, most people develop some degree of osteoarthritis. Wear and tear of our joints may occur due to aging, injury, prolonged poor posture, overuse of joints, or excess weight. Permanent bony changes occur and will exist even when there are no painful symptoms. This is why you can have an awful X-ray report but actually have very minor or no symptoms!

The degree of suffering varies. Whereas some people may be symptom-free others may suffer continuous disabling pain. The most common is mild or intermittent pain provoked by episodes of increased use or minor trauma.

The joints most commonly affected are the weight bearing joints: hip, knee, ankles, feet and spine. However, osteoarthritis can affect any joint in the body and is common in the hands and shoulders.

Severe cases may require surgical treatment but most will respond very well to physiotherapy and anti-inflammatory medication.

What joints can be effected?

    • Neck
    • Back
    • Hips
    • Knees
    • Feet & ankles
    • Thumbs
    • Shoulders 


    • Swelling on in one or more joints
    • Early morning stiffness for more than a few minutes
    • Recurring pain or tenderness in one or more joints
    • Reduced movement
    • Obvious redness or warmth in one or more joints  


Treatment depends on the type and severity of arthritis. It is important a correct diagnosis is made before beginning any treatment. Only a well trained health professional doctor can diagnose the type of arthritis you have. There are more than 100 types. – Including Osteoarthritis (the most common type ) and rheumatoid arthritis – each of which has different treatments. Getting the right treatment requires getting the right diagnosis.

Generally for most types of arthritis the treatment will include medication, rest and / or exercise, joint protection and in some cases surgery to correct to prevent deformity, increase mobility and improve quality of life.

Joint protection

  • Avoid excess stress on your joints. There are lots of nifty tools to make tasks at home and work easier.
  • Lose weight. Increase weight can mean more pain and certainly more stress and strain particularly on hips and knees.
  • Exercise in water.  It provides resistance without stressing the joints, – the waters buoyancy can also assist in improving motion at the joints.


Exercise helps lessen pain. Increases range of movement, reduces fatigue and helps you feel better overall. A well-rounded exercise routine for people with arthritis includes flexibility exercises to increase range of motion, aerobic exercise to improve endurance and decrease fatigue and strengthening exercises to improve muscles fitness. We can show you flexibility and strengthening exercises that are good for arthritis.

A little, often, is a good regime to adopt. – and remember gardening and dancing are exercise too! Walking is a great exercise for  most people with arthritis. It burns calories, strengthens muscles and builds denser bones. – All without jarring fragile joints. Pilates and Tai Chi are other great forms of exercise.

Exercise for knee injuries or knee osteoarthritis

Recent research, clinical guidelines and systematic reviews have consistently shown physiotherapy, including specific exercises to be effective in the management of knee pain, including osteoarthritis, as it reduces pain and improves physical function.  Studies also confirm that exercise keeps joints mobile, improving cartilage health whilst maintaining muscle strength.

This is where our Practice can help!

We are able to prescribe individual exercise programmes to suit your condition, focusing on controlling pain, increasing flexibility, and improving muscle strength and endurance.  Our physiotherapists can design appropriate programme modifications so that the benefit of increased physical activity is achieved without aggravating the existing problem.

Research has also shown that physiotherapy can prevent the onset of knee osteoarthritis and reduce the need for knee joint replacement surgery.  Our practice can provide you with preventative physiotherapy exercises to counter both of these conditions.

Rest and relaxation

  • A warm bath can relieve muscle tension and sooth aching joints – or use a moist wheat bag on specific area (but do not use heat on hot and inflamed joints).
  • Treat your muscles to a massage. Massage can reduce pain and increase flexibility, reduce muscle spasms and generally make you feel better
  • Stretching to keep muscles and joints flexible – we can show you some gentle stretches to help maintain your joint and muscle function.


When joints are hot and inflamed applying something cold can decrease pain and swelling by constricting blood vessels and preventing fluids from leaking onto surrounding tissues.

TIP Use a bag of peas which will mould nicely around the body – but label it so you don’t eat the peas after they’ve been out of the freezer!