Headline Health News Nigeria Special Report

Arthritis: Urgent need for awareness, rehabilitation centres

This type of arthritis can cause pain, stiffness, swelling, and redness in the affected joints, significantly impacting a person’s quality of life.

As the world celebrates Physiotherapy Day, it is pertinent to note that awareness is a crucial role in keeping people healthy.

This year’s theme, Arthritis and Physiotherapy Management, underscores the importance of physiotherapists in the prevention and management of arthritis.

The Theme was apt, as it aims to promote the role of physiotherapists in the prevention of arthritis, including some forms of inflammatory arthritis like rheumatoid arthritis and axial spondylarthritis.

Inflammatory Arthritis

Inflammatory arthritis is a term used to describe a group of chronic conditions characterised by inflammation in the joints. Rheumatoid arthritis (RA), psoriatic arthritis (PsA), and ankylosing spondylitis (AS) are some common examples.

Although Rheumatoid arthritis is the most common form of the disease, a study revealed that “RA patients present late with high disease activity and poor access to biologics. Hence the need to improve early diagnosis and prompt referral to a rheumatologist and physiotherapist.

Studies have shown that Disability due to musculoskeletal disorders has increased by 45% from 1990 to 2010 and osteoarthritis is listed as the fastest-growing major health condition and ranked second as cause of disability by World Health Organisation (WHO)

While medication is often a primary treatment approach, physiotherapy plays a crucial role in managing symptoms, improving mobility, and enhancing the individual’s overall well-being.

Need for a Physiotherapist

One of the primary goals of physiotherapy is to provide pain relief. This can be achieved through various techniques, including heat and cold therapy, ultrasound, electrical stimulation, and manual therapy.

Heat therapy, such as warm towels or hot packs, helps to relax muscles and improve blood flow, while cold therapy, such as ice packs, reduces inflammation and numbs the area. Ultrasound and electrical stimulation are used to alleviate pain, reduce swelling, and promote tissue healing.

As Nigeria joins in to mark this year’s World Physiotherapy Day (WPD), it is crucial to acknowledge the significant role that physiotherapists play in assisting and aiding individuals with inflammatory arthritis.

It is imperative that we embrace the chances to enhance and broaden Nigeria’s involvement in this area.

Scholars Opinion

A specialist on physiotherapy and Country Manager, Results for Development Institute (R4D) Nigeria Country Office, Prof Felix Obi, said this year’s theme, Arthritis: The Role of Physiotherapy in Management, underscores the need for more awareness of how to manage and prevent Arthritis.

He commended the Nigeria Society of Physiotherapy (NSP) for organising a walk called, Walkout Arthritis to mark World Physiotherapy Day (WPD), aimed at creating public awareness, and advised the government to establish a department in the Ministry of Health that would be in charge of issues related to arthritis and disabilities in the country.

He reiterated the critical role of a Physiotherapist in offering first-aid treatment and advice: “Having made a diagnosis, he will then design and review appropriate treatment programmes using a range of techniques, including manual therapy, therapeutic exercise, and electrotherapy”.

The World Health Organisation has approved the resolution on the need to strengthen rehabilitation centres in the health sector, however, many people have a narrowed impression about the duties of physiotherapists as they tend to restrict them to massaging alone.

In an interview with Prof. Rufai Yusuf, the Registrar, Medical Rehabilitation Therapists Board of Nigeria, said that physiotherapists essentially work on the movement systems of the body.

“The movement system is the integration of body systems that generate and maintain movement at all levels of bodily function”. According to him, human movement is a complex behaviour within a specific context, and is influenced by social, environmental, and personal factors.

He agreed that physiotherapists identify neuromusculoskeletal problems based on the pathophysiology of skeletal injuries, which includes a wide-range of diseases affecting the peripheral nervous system.

Causes of Arthritis
  • 1. Age: The risk of developing arthritis increases with age. It is most commonly seen in individuals over the age of 65.
  • Genetics: Some types of arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis, have a genetic component.
  • Joint injury: Injury or trauma to a joint can increase the risk of developing arthritis.
  • Obesity: Excess weight puts additional stress on the joints, particularly the knees and hips.
  • Infection: Certain infections, such as Lyme disease or bacterial infections, can trigger inflammatory arthritis.
  • Autoimmune diseases: Conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and psoriatic arthritis are autoimmune diseases, in which the immune system mistakenly attacks the body’s own tissues, including the joints.
  • Hormonal factors: Hormonal changes, such as those that occur during menopause,
  • Occupational factors: Jobs that involve repetitive joint movements or heavy lifting can lead to the development of arthritis over time.
  • Smoking: Smoking has been linked to an increased risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis, as well as worsening symptoms in people who already have the condition.
Preventing, and managing arthritis
  • Medications: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can help reduce inflammation and manage pain associated with inflammatory arthritis. Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) and biologic agents can also be prescribed to slow the progression of the disease and manage symptoms.
  • Physical therapy: Physical therapy can help improve joint function, flexibility, and reduce pain. It may include exercises, manual therapy, and modalities such as heat or ice.
  • Weight management: Maintaining a healthy weight can help reduce stress on the joints, alleviate pain, and improve overall joint function.
  • Stress management: Engaging in relaxation techniques such as meditation, deep breathing exercises, and yoga can help reduce stress levels and potentially alleviate symptoms.
  • Joint protection strategies: Using assistive devices such as braces, splints, or walking aids can help support affected joints and reduce pain. Avoiding repetitive motions or activities that put excessive stress on the joints can also be helpful.
  • Surgery: In severe cases where joint damage is extensive, surgery may be recommended. Joint replacement surgeries, such as total hip or knee replacements, can help alleviate pain and improve mobility.
  • Complementary and alternative therapies: Some individuals find relief from inflammatory arthritis symptoms through complementary therapies such as acupuncture, massage, or herbal supplements.
  • It’s important to consult with a healthcare professional before trying any alternative therapies.
  • Regular exercise: Engaging in low-impact exercises, such as swimming or cycling, can help improve joint function, strengthen muscles, and reduce pain associated with inflammatory arthritis.
  • Proper nutrition: A balanced diet rich in anti-inflammatory foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and omega-3 fatty acids, can help reduce inflammation and promote overall health.
  • Additionally, certain dietary supplements like fish oil or turmeric may have anti-inflammatory properties, but it’s crucial to consult with a healthcare professional before taking any supplements.

Writing by Julian Osamoto