What is Arthritis?

Arthritis affects approximately half of the population above the age of 60. Arthritis is a term for an inflamed joint, and when the joint is inflamed it can be sore, stiff or both. Other symptoms include swelling, redness or heat. There are over 140 different type of arthritis; the most common types include:

  • Osteoarthritis (OA). OA affects more than 305,000 New Zealanders. The pain is often described as sharp pain like having glass in your joint.
  • Gout. This is the second most common form of arthritis. It is associated with certain rich foods such as shellfish and can also appear in people with high uric acid levels.
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA). 40,000 New Zealanders live with RA, and it is the third most common form of arthritis. This form of arthritis can affect many parts of the body and in the severe form can be very debilitating.
  • Ankylosing Arthritis (AS). AS affects mainly the spine and affects more males than females. Symptoms usually develop between the ages of 15-35.
  • Fibromyalgia. One in 50 people will develop fibromyalgia at some time in their life. It is called a syndrome as it is a collection of symptoms including muscle pain, fatigue and stiffness.
  • Lupus. Lupus is an auto-immune disease which means that your body produces antibodies which attack healthy tissues. This causes inflammation and pain. Women are 9 times more likely to be diagnosed with lupus.
  • Polymyalgia Rheumatica (PMR). PMR affects about 1 in 2000 people and causes severe stiffness and pain in the neck, shoulders, lower back and buttocks. It is associated with other symptoms such as a loss of energy, night sweats and weight loss.

People with severe arthritis find it difficult to do everyday things such as getting dressed, walking to the shops, cooking and playing sport. While there is currently no cure for arthritis, there are effective treatments including physiotherapy.

Physiotherapy and Arthritis

Physiotherapy can help to reduce pain, stiffness and weakness as a result of arthritis. Treatment methods may include:

  • massage
  • mobilisation
  • exercise therapy
  • hydrotherapy
  • splinting/bracing

Your physiotherapist can also liaise with your GP to ensure pain management is adequate.

For further information, please visit 

Arthritis New Zealand’s website, or visit Physiotherapy New Zealand’s arthritis e-book