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Arthritis Treatment and Exercises

Published: 06 March 2013 - Injury Treatment and Prevention, Pain Management, Senior’s Physio, Wellbeing

As I have aged over my twenty years as a physiotherapist my clients have aged with me and more and more they are asking me for treatment and exercises to help with their arthritic hip, knee or lower back.

This group of clients is one of the most satisfying to treat because with some fairly straight forward strategies I can have a big impact on their quality of life. “But you can’t fix a worn out joint!” I hear you say, and this the question my long term clients often have for me.

Exercises and treatment for arthritis

Why arthritis occurs

An arthritic joint becomes inflamed, so the smooth white lining of the joint becomes irritated and red, the bone tissue behind the joint surface also suffers. These changes are what cause the aches and pains that are known as arthritis.

The major reversible change that occurs with an arthritic joint is muscle weakness in the surrounding muscles. This is very normal as it hurts to use the joint and often I will see a limp developing.

Treatment & exercises for arthritis

My physiotherapy treatment program for arthritis clients has, at its core, a twice a week for six weeks supervised exercise program, all of the research into exercise and arthritis supports this type of program. Before starting the program I work hard with my clients to reduce the pain with strapping, massage and medication, some respond very well to this while others get no benefit so they go straight into the exercise program.

The real challenge is to design the exercise program in a way that doesn’t load and irritate the joint. Once that is done it’s all about diligently doing the work. I find the most important part of a successful program is setting some achievable mid to long term goals that create a focus for my client and I. A typical goal might be to do a 1 to 5 day bushwalk, which is a common goal for my Hobart clients who are often healthy, outdoor loving people.

Another typical goal is being able to descend the stairs at home without needing the handrail and again in Hobart most houses are on a hill and so have many stairs.

Arthritis exercises provide multiple benefits

After completing the six week program most of these clients continue to attend one of my exercise classes to help maintain their strength. If the joint is slowly wearing out it will slowly become harder to maintain good function, that’s when I know I have helped prepare my client for surgery and a quicker recovery if in fact that’s where they end up.

Most arthritic joints just give a bit of trouble from time to time and these are the joints that love more muscular support from the exercise program.


Knowing what exercises can help with your arthritis is not difficult and can be taught quickly. It’s not the knowledge that is our challenge, it's the behavior change that we need to actually make sure we do it. This can be very difficult and it’s where I find our Result4Life™ philosophy really works. Mapping out a roadmap with goals and then supporting my clients to continue in their program is where I have my success. 

For more information on arthritis, read our blog: what you can do today to reduce the impact of arthrits.

Peter Eckhardt – Physiotherapist and Director of Back In Motion Hobart on Murray and Rosny Park

Peter has twenty-four years experience as a physiotherapist, and has completed postgraduate education allowing him to practice as an APA Sports Physiotherapist since 2001. Peter’s sporting love has always been whitewater canoeing. He competed at a national and international level for eighteen years, most recently at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. He continues to enjoy tackling Tasmania’s whitewater rivers, and has extended his love of white water to surfing. Peter has been a physiotherapist for the Australian Olympic Team in 1996, 2000 and 2004 and has been appointed as Head Physiotherapist for Beijing in 2008. Peter has a special interest in the assessment and treatment of shoulder and knee problems. He also focuses on injuries occurring in rowing, canoeing and football. Peter has recently worked with patients after orthopaedic surgery.