Rheumatoid arthritis is a long-term inflammatory condition which can cause pain, swelling and stiffness in the joints. It is an autoimmune disease meaning that the immune system attacks healthy cells causing an inflammatory process, meaning you may have swelling redness and heat at your joints.

Diagnosis of Rheumatoid Arthritis is based on symptoms and a physical examination which may be carried out by a physiotherapist, and comes from a multitude of different investigations which may include x-rays, other scans and blood tests. There is not one blood test that can confirm rheumatoid arthritis. If it is suspected that you have rheumatoid arthritis you will be referred to a specialist (rheumatologist).

Symptoms can worsen for a period of time, this is known as a flare up it is not possible to predict when flare ups will occur however with treatment reducing the frequency and impact of these is possible.

Treatment of the condition is mainly using drugs however the role of physiotherapy within Rheumatoid Arthritis is to support treatment ensuring maintenance of mobility and ability to complete daily tasks and activities.

With rheumatoid arthritis it is important to seek professional advice around exercises and exercising as some may not be suitable for you. For example; range of movement exercises should be the focus during a flare up to allow the joint to settle down before returning to your level of exercise.

Versus Arthritis are a charity who aim to support those with arthritis, as well as supporting research into the condition and treatments. Their site has a lots of useful information and resources for people living with arthritis. Their booklet on Rheumatoid Arthritis can be found here.

The National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society (NRAS) is a patient-led organisation specialising in rheumatoid arthritis which provides support, engagement, expert knowledge, research and campaigning to enable the RA community to thrive.