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How Physiotherapy Can Relieve Symptoms of Arthritis

How does physiotherapy help to alleviate the symptoms of arthritis, and is it an effective solution for long-term pain relief?

Arthritis is a painful condition characterised by inflammation and swelling of the joints that affects the quality of life experienced by millions of Australians. 

In conjunction with ongoing physiotherapy treatment, the symptoms of arthritis can be treated to provide relief and restore mobility and comfort in everyday activities. Arthritis is a degenerative condition, which means that when left untreated, the symptoms are likely to get worse. 

In many cases, patients begin to see an improvement in their symptoms after only a few treatments. The results can mean an increased range of motion, reduced swelling inflammation, improved muscle length, and reduced pain – particularly in the morning.

Table of contents 

What are the symptoms of arthritis?

As we’ve touched on above, arthritis is a degenerative condition, which means that it is not usually a ‘sudden’ onset but rather a slow-moving pain that creeps up over time. In Australia, the most commonly diagnosed type of arthritis is osteoarthritis, which is characterised by the wearing of cartilage around the joints such as fingers and knees.

When left untreated, the symptoms of arthritis are likely to intensify and can manifest in a number of different ways, including:

  • Pain or swelling in the joints
  • Joints that feel stuck or have restricted movement
  • Redness around the joints

How physiotherapy can help with arthritis

Multiple medical studies have shown that physiotherapy can significantly reduce pain in people with arthritis, help delay or even prevent the need for surgery, and decrease reliance on medication for pain relief.

The goal of physiotherapy sessions is to restore strength and mobility to the affected joints. Through the use of various treatment types, physiotherapy can help to:

  • Provide pain relief – By strengthening the muscles around joints, the joint itself will experience less friction and, consequently, less pain.
  • Reduce swelling and inflammation – Swelling occurs when the joint has too little cartilage to absorb the impact of movements. Providing more support to the joint can reduce this swelling.
  • Improve joint motion – Flexibility can be improved with targeted exercises around the joint, increasing the range of movement.

Types of physiotherapy treatments for arthritis

There are a variety of different physiotherapy treatments, with some better suited to treat specific types of arthritis than others. Some of the available treatments include:

Physical Exercises

Stretching and strengthening exercises are at the core of physiotherapy treatment for arthritis. Physiotherapists will typically prescribe a specific routine of exercises to target the affected areas and joints to alleviate discomfort and inflammation, enhance joint flexibility, and strengthen the surrounding muscles.


Some physiotherapists apply targeted massages that can help relieve pain around joints by loosening the muscles around joints and improving blood flow to the area.

Mobility Aids

Physiotherapy treatments also involve providing appropriate mobility aids for affected individuals. These aids are specially designed to help take pressure off affected joints to reduce pain and swelling while providing a safe way for individuals to get around and perform daily tasks.

Tips for temporary relief from arthritic symptoms

Dealing with arthritis is a daily struggle, and even the smallest or simplest of tasks can become a source of discomfort or frustration. Physiotherapy can definitely make arthritic symptoms more manageable over time, but there might be times at home when you need quick relief. To that end, here are some tips that you can take home for some temporary relief:

  • Take a hot shower – The warmth of a hot shower can increase the blood flow throughout your body and relax your muscles.
  • Apply an ice pack – Putting a cold pack over the aching joint for about 10-15 minutes at a time can help to numb the pain temporarily.
  • Massage around the area – Knead the muscles around the area to loosen them up and draw pain sensations away from the joint.
  • Try meditation – Meditation can help to relax your body and take your mind off the pain or discomfort until it subsides.

Final thoughts 

Arthritis is a condition that affects the quality of life of millions of Australians. Whilst the condition is painful and can get worse over time, there are a number of steps that you can take – outlined above, that can improve the quality of life and alleviate painful symptoms.

Not all physiotherapists specialise in treating arthritis, so it’s important that you find one who knows the correct ways to help you. At NQ Physio, we have a team of physical therapists who have a deep understanding of arthritis and have helped many individuals effectively manage their condition and improve their quality of life.

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