Rheumatoid arthritis is not only a painful and debilitating disease. It is also a risk factor for other diseases such as heart disease and osteoporosis. Research shows that these diseases can be held off by exercise and other lifestyle changes. For the sufferer of rheumatoid arthritis, life is a constant learning experience. Each time a new movement is done, one finds out if it makes the condition feel worse or better. Rheumatoid arthritis patients may feel fatigue. They will likely have a great amount of pain and stiffness in their joints. Physiotherapy is one way to combat the effects of rheumatoid arthritis. This will be an ongoing therapy that will require dedication over the rest of the patient's life. However, it is common that the exercises and other therapies help the rheumatoid arthritis so much that the patient will have incentive to keep doing them. A physiotherapist understands how all the parts of one's body work together to create movement. Bones, muscles, joints, ligaments, and tendons: the physiotherapist knows how they all fit to make one walk or stand. With this knowledge, the physiotherapist can devise methods to help one keep moving. This is the most important part of rheumatoid arthritis treatment. Early in one's treatment, the plan will take shape. It will include ways to prevent rheumatoid arthritis from disabling one. As time goes by, the focus will shift to a more here and now sort of treatment. Exercises will be geared more towards current problems. Water exercises can be used for people with rheumatoid arthritis. These exercises allow the person to get much needed strengthening and stretching exercises done. At the same time, there is little or no pressure on the joints or spine. Physiotherapists use water exercises as an important part of the treatment plan. Strengthening exercises help the muscles provide more support to the joints of people with rheumatoid arthritis. If there is not enough muscle tone, the patient will have more trouble walking or doing other normal movements. The rheumatoid arthritis will dominate the movements instead of the muscles dominating them. Heat therapy can be used in conjunction with ice therapy for rheumatoid arthritis. A physiotherapist can tell the patient when and how long to leave on heat packs or ice packs. Other heat therapy is done by ultrasound. People with rheumatoid arthritis can benefit from manual procedures, such as massage. A person with the stiffness that accompanies rheumatoid arthritis can be very limited in how far he can move his joints. Massage improves movement and increases this range dramatically. One of the most important functions a physiotherapist serves for patients with rheumatoid arthritis is as a motivational coach. The physiotherapist should be trained in the psychology of chronic disorders and pain management. She will be there to encourage you to keep trying, keeping moving, and never giving up. Physiotherapy is only a part of the treatment for rheumatoid arthritis. Diet and medications are also used, for example. Yet, without physiotherapy, many people who suffer from this disease would be in much worse pain.
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