Gout is a form of arthritis that is caused by the accumulation of excess uric acid in the body. Uric acid is a waste product that is produced when the body breaks down purines, which are found in certain foods and drinks. In most people, uric acid is dissolved in the blood and passes through the kidneys, where it is eliminated from the body in the urine. However, in some people, the body produces too much uric acid, or the kidneys are not able to eliminate it effectively, leading to a build-up of uric acid in the bloodstream. When this occurs, the uric acid can form crystals in the joints, which can cause inflammation, pain, and swelling.
What does Gout affect?
The most common joint affected by gout is the big toe, but it can also affect the ankles, knees, wrists, and other joints. Symptoms of gout include sudden, severe joint pain that is often described as throbbing or burning, swelling and redness in the affected joint, difficulty moving the joint, and the formation of hard, lumpy deposits called tophi on the skin. These tophi can appear as bumps or lumps under the skin, particularly around the fingers, toes, elbows, or ankles.
Gout is more common in men than in women and is more likely to occur in people who are overweight, have high blood pressure, or have a family history of the condition. It can also be caused by certain medications, such as diuretics and aspirin, or by medical conditions such as kidney disease. Gout is typically treated with medications to reduce inflammation and pain, as well as lifestyle changes such as eating a low-purine diet, losing weight, and avoiding alcohol and foods that are high in purines.
Treatment for Gout
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen and naproxen can be used to reduce inflammation and pain during a gout attack. Colchicine, a medication that is specifically designed to treat gout, can also be used to reduce inflammation, and prevent future attacks. If these medications are not effective, your doctor may prescribe corticosteroids, which are stronger anti-inflammatory drugs.
- Uric acid-lowering medications: These medications can help to lower the levels of uric acid in the body, which can help to prevent future gout attacks. They can take several months to be fully effective, so they are often used in combination with other medications to control symptoms in the short-term.
- Lifestyle changes: Making certain lifestyle changes can help to reduce the risk of gout attacks and prevent future attacks. These changes include:
- Maintaining a healthy weight: Being overweight or obese can increase the risk of gout, so losing weight, if necessary, can help to reduce the risk of attacks.
- Limiting or avoiding high-purine foods which increase the levels of uric acid in the body, such as red meat, organ meat, and certain types of seafood.
- Alcohol, particularly beer and spirits, can increase the risk of gout attacks. Limiting or avoiding alcohol can help to reduce the risk of attacks.
- Drinking plenty of fluids, particularly water, can help to flush excess uric acid out of the body and prevent gout attacks.
- If a joint is severely inflamed and swollen, your doctor may recommend draining the joint to relieve pressure and reduce pain. This is typically done using a needle to draw out the excess fluid.
- Surgery – In rare cases, surgery may be recommended to remove tophi or to repair damaged joints.
How a physiotherapist can help with gout
Physiotherapy can be an effective part of treatment for gout, as it can help to reduce inflammation and pain, and improve mobility and function in affected joints. Here are some specific ways that physiotherapy can help with gout:
- Range of motion exercises -These exercises involve moving the joints through their full range of motion to help improve flexibility and reduce stiffness. These exercises can be especially helpful during a gout attack, when the joint may be swollen and painful.
- Strength training – Gout can cause weakness in the muscles surrounding the affected joints, so strengthening exercises can help to improve muscle function and support the joints.
- Heat therapy – Applying heat to the affected joint can help to reduce inflammation, pain and improve blood flow to the area. Heat therapy can be applied using a heat pad or hot water bottle, or through hydrotherapy (exercise in warm water).
- Cold therapy – Applying cold to the affected joint can help to reduce inflammation and numb pain. Cold therapy can be applied using a cold pack or ice wrapped in a towel, or through cryotherapy (exposure to cold temperatures).
- Massage – Massaging the affected joint can help to reduce swelling and stiffness, and improve circulation.
- TENS: Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) involves applying a small electric current to the affected joint to stimulate the nerves and reduce pain.
At Home Physio Group our physiotherapists can help treat gout with a recommended treatment plan to ensure the best possible outcome. Gout can be a chronic condition, so ongoing physiotherapy may be necessary to manage symptoms and prevent future attacks.
For more information, please contact us on 0330 335 1016 or alternatively please fill out our contact sheet and we will get back to you.