Rheumatology is the area of medicine concerned with the diagnosis and treatment of Rheumatological diseases involving the joints, soft tissues, connective tissues, bones and vascular system. These conditions include:
- Degenerative arthropaties such as osteoarthritis (OA)
- Inflammatory arthropathies such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA), septic arthritis, gout, juvenile idiopathic arthritis and spondylarthropathies (ankylosing spondylitis, reactive arthritis and psoriatic arthropathy)
- Systemic conditions and connective tissue diseases such as Lupus, Scleroderma, Polymyositis, Dermatomyositis, Sarcoidosis, Vasculitis
- Soft tissue disorders such as low back pain, tennis elbow, golfer’s elbow etc.
Whilst comprehensive medical management is crucial with these conditions, appropriate physiotherapy treatment also has a vital role to play. Following a thorough musculoskeletal assessment, a goal-oriented treatment plan may include the following:
- Pain management, via the application of heat, ice and electrotherapeutic modalities,
- Joint protection, through the prescription of splints and supports if indicated (and often in conjunction with occupational therapy colleagues)
- Prevention of deformities, by means of joint range of movement exercises, stretches to improve flexibility and advice regarding good posture
- Rehabilitation and the regaining of function via strengthening and conditioning programmes and gait re-education etc.
Education is also an integral part of physiotherapy management in rheumatological conditions to assist the patient to self manage their condition in the longer term. In more severe cases, a multi-disciplinary approach is indicated, to promote independence and enable the patient to achieve and maintain their optimum potential at home, work and in social situations.