This is perhaps one of the most commonly used words by patients with any joint pain. More often than not it is used without a clear understanding of what it is. Arthritis refers to inflammation of a joint. There are two main types, osteo and rheumatoid:
Osteoarthritis is often explained as “wear and tear” to the joint, which is true to a certain extent, but what has brought on this “wear and tear” and why only that joint? Usually, it can be put down to occupation or sporting activities (i.e. the body being used repetitively in the same way), as well as obesity (more pressure on the joint surfaces). However, sometimes it is due to altered postural and biomechanics (movement of the body). This can be caused by a past trauma, growth patterns and can even be traced as far back as the most traumatic experience in anyone's life – the birthing process.
- is the most common type of arthritis
- primarily affects cartilage, the tissue that cushions the ends of bones within the joints
- may initally affect joints asymmetrically
- affects neck, lower back, hands and weight bearing joints
- can cause joint pain and stiffness
- can often improve after a period of movement
- usually develops slowly over many years
Rheumatoid arthritis is more complex as it is an autoimmune condition, i.e. one in which the body’s immune system attacks the body’s own tissue. It usually affects the whole body, particularly the membranes of the joints. The joints typically affected are the hands, feet, wrists, ankles and knees. These tend to be warm, tender and swollen, and the skin over the joint will take on a ruddy purplish hue. Joint deformities occur in the hands and feet, as the disease progresses.
- causes redness, warmth, and swelling of joints
- usually affects the same joint on both sides of the body
- is sometimes associated with a general feeling of sickness, fatigue, weight loss, and fever
- may develop suddenly within weeks or months
Osteopaths are highly skilled in helping patients with either form of the condition. As the symptoms are produced largely by the inflammation around the joint, specific movements and treatment techniques can be extremely effective. By encouraging the movement of fluid around the joints and tissues, this helps to remove the inflammatory substances. In the elderly, minimal treatment can often have profound effect in reducing the pain.
Osteopaths will also address diet and lifestyle in order to help control the symptoms experienced.
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