This week saw National Arthritis Day. With this in mind we decided to do a blog about Arthritis, more of a fact sheet about the disease compared to the more study orientated blog below this one.
First things first then. What is arthritis? Well there are two main types of arthritis, the inflammatory Rheumatoid Arthritis and the non- inflammatory Osteoarthritis. Arthritis can affect any joint. Before looking into these diseases we need to discuss a healthy joint and how it should work.
A joint is where two or more bones meet. The joints allow the bones to move freely but within limits to prevent injury. The ends of the bones are covered in a tissue called cartilage, this is very smooth and allows the bones to move against each other with very little friction. Surrounding the joint is synovium which produces synovial fluid, this lubricates the joint again reducing friction. The synovium has a tough outer layer called the capsule and it is this capsule along with ligaments that hold the joint in place and prevents the bones moving too much.
Rheumatoid Arthritis –
This is an autoimmune disease that causes inflammation in the joints, specifically the synovium. People who have this disease suffer from joint pain and swelling, there will also be redness and warmth on the surface caused by increased blood flow. The joint hurts for two reasons:
1. Nerve endings are irritated by the chemicals produced by the inflammation.
2. The capsule itself is being stretched by the swelling in your joint.
Even when the inflammation reduces the capsule remains stretched and can no longer hold the joint properly. This is why the joint can become unstable and move into unnatural positions. Every time you suffer from inflammation of the joint some damage will occur and the joint can be worn away after many repeated inflammations.
Apart from the joint pain and swelling if you suffer from rheumatoid arthritis then your joint may become stiff, you may feel tired, depressed or irritable, you might feel like you have the flu, lose weight or suffer from anaemia.
There is no one way of diagnosing Rheumatoid Arthritis in the early stages. A health professional would diagnose based on your symptoms, x-rays, scans, blood tests and a physical examination. These tests may be carried out numerous times to see how the arthritis is developing.
This is again a condition that affects your joints. The cartilage that covers the ends of the bone to allow smooth movement at the joint gradually becomes rough and thin, this leads to the bone thickening. The bone can grow outwards forming osteophytes which are bony spurs. The synovium, which is the tissue that produces synovial fluid thickens and produces more synovial fluid to try to reduce the friction, this leads to swelling. The capsule and ligaments also thicken and contract as they try to stabilise and protect the joint.
When Osteoarthritis develops more severely, the cartilage can become so thin that it doesn’t cover the whole of the bone. This means that the bones will rub against each other and begin to wear away, this can change the shape of the joint.
The main symptoms of Osteoarthritis are pain , usually when moving the joint; stiffness, usually after rest, this will normally wear off as you start moving; swelling may either be soft caused by extra synovial fluid or hard which can be due to osteophytes; poor joint may mean you cannot use it as easily as normal, sometimes even giving way at times; muscles surrounding the joint may become weak.
To diagnose Osteoarthritis a health professional shall perform a physical check on the patient knowing which symptoms to look for. Also, diagnostic devices such as MRI and X-ray will show any degradation of cartilage.
Nothing specifically causes Osteoarthritis but there are many factors that can increase the risk of getting it. Osteoarthritis is more common in people in their 50’s and up although can occur at any age. Women are more likely to suffer especially in the knees and hands. Weight is an important risk factor, being overweight puts more pressure on your joints meaning you are more likely to suffer, especially in the knees. Joint abnormalities that you were born with can lead to an early onset. Some genetic factors can contribute to the likelihood of suffering, there is research currently going on to understand this more. Lifestyle plays a big part, either a very sedentary life or an extremely demanding one can lead to this. Finally, injuries are a major factor. If you have had a major injury or surgery on a joint then you are more than likely to have Osteoarthritis in that joint at some point.
There are a few things that you can do to help manage the pain from arthritis. One of the best ways is to strengthen the muscles around the affected joint(s). This will help with stability, protect the joint and reduce pain. Aerobic exercise is very important too, low impact exercises like swimming and tai chi can be beneficial but understanding which exercises are best for your problem is imperative, see a physiotherapist to find out which.
Reducing pressure on the joints might help, your footwear can help or hinder you here, soft thick soles are your friend. A walking stick when the right size and used correctly can help either short or long term. Slightly changing things around at home and at work to make it less of a strain to get to might be beneficial, maybe even driving an automatic car rather than manual. Knee braces and back supports can be very helpful, getting expert advice to get the right one for you should be taken first. Warmth and/or ice can help, remember to never apply either direct to the skin and only in 10/15minute cycles, i.e. 10mins on, 10 mins off. If you are overweight then losing weight will certainly help you too.
If you suffer from Arthritis in any form them please book an appointment with a health professional who specialises in treating these conditions such as a physiotherapist.
If you would like to know how MBST can be used to treat your Arthritis then please email me at email@example.com or call 01780 238084.