Physiotherapy isn’t just a necessary evil – it can ease arthritis symptoms, keep you mobile and help you feel fabulous
Physiotherapy isn’t just a necessary evil – it can actually do some real good and make you feel more fabulous. Honestly.
If you listen to your physio and do the exercises properly (that’s not just once a fortnight before your appointment. Yes, you. We know what you’re up to) then you will start to feel the benefits.
It’s not just people with arthritis who can benefit from physiotherapy – all the top athletes do it too. Just imagine you’re Jessica Ennis or Mo Farah. It’s about strengthening your body so you can get it to do what you want it to.
So what is physiotherapy?
Physiotherapy can play a very important part in managing the symptoms of your arthritis and helping you to get on with life.
Physiotherapy exercises can help to strengthen your body and improve your range of movement, so that your body has a much better chance of not letting you down when you need it most. For some this is about completing everyday tasks, like reaching for the remote control, and for others it’s about climbing Kilimanjaro. A physiotherapist will also help you get to know your body and understand how your condition will respond under different stresses and strains. This will help you plan activities so that they cause you minimum pain.
Steve Tolan is a musculoskeletal physiotherapist and professional adviser to the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy. He thinks physio is a jolly useful thing: “Physiotherapy is about improving people’s function and activity, and helping improve their quality of life. We deal with the whole person, taking their lifestyle into account, and while we won’t necessarily be able to cure someone, we can definitely help to maximise function. This is specifically important for someone young with arthritis, who might be managing their condition for many years.”
What can I expect from physiotherapy sessions?
According to Steve, quite a lot! “There are lots of different types of arthritis, but generally somebody with arthritis can expect their physio to help them by teaching them skills to manage pain, increasing function through strengthening exercises, and helping to manage the activities they do day-to-day, in a way which is appropriate to their daily lifestyle.”
Yes, readers, physiotherapy does involve exercises, which probably sounds as attractive to you right now as running over hot coals. But do not fear; a physiotherapist will work at your pace while you build up the confidence and stamina to give exercises a go. Steve says: “It’s a collaborative process that aims to empower the person, to give them skills and knowledge to interact with life and live to their full potential. There will be a lot that young people will want to do in their lives, and we can help achieve some of these things through collaborative self-management of their condition.”
When you first start seeing your physio, you may be fortunate enough to have fairly frequent appointments (it can vary from region to region depending on resources). As you learn to do exercises independently, you’ll probably see them less often. There’s no set time for how long you’ll be going to physio – it all depends on your condition and needs.
How do I sign up for physiotherapy?
The most common route to physiotherapy is through a referral from your GP or rheumatologist, though in some parts of the UK it is possible to make your own appointment with a physiotherapist without a doctor’s approval (self-referral). Your GP should be able to tell you if self-referral is possible in your area. You can also self-refer to a private physiotherapist too.