“Oh, when the rain falls, the pains in my joints, especially my knees…” It’s a common plight, more so amongst older clients. There are many types of arthritis, over 100, and it continues to grow. The more common ones are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Juvenile arthritis is something that is on the rise, and another type of arthritis that is generally not associated within the arthritis family is – gout.
To properly deal with your arthritis, it needs to be established the type you have in order to execute treatments. The objective is to reduce/retard your symptoms, which in turn leads to an improved quality of life. Early and accurate diagnosis can help to prevent irreversible damage and disability.
Of the two common types, osteoarthritis occurs as a result of normal wear and tear, whereas rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder. The causes of other types can be as a result of infections, uric acid build up, or underlying diseases such as lupus or psoriasis.
Who is affected?
Both men and women, with women being the greater percentage of affected persons. It is a condition that also affects a large number of children. More than half of the persons with arthritis tend to be under 65 years of age.
There is much talk about the joints; so let’s explain the biomechanics here. A joint is where two bones connect; its function is to make that area mobile. Besides the joints, the types of arthritis associated with rheumatic diseases affect various organs that aren’t joint related. Hence the reason some persons experience swollen lymph nodes (gland swelling), fatigue, weight loss, stiffness and fever. Other symptoms include heart, lungs and kidney abnormalities.
The most common symptoms of this condition are joint pains, inflammation and stiffness. It also manifests itself in the form of swelling, redness, decreased range of motion, and worsens with age.
The pain associated with arthritis is caused by joint damage. Joints are made up of the following parts:
• Joint capsule – This tough membrane encloses all the joint parts.
• Cartilage – A hard, but slick coating on the ends of bones. Cartilage allows bones of the joint to slide smoothly over each other.
• Synovium – This thin membrane lines the joint capsule and secretes synovial fluid, which lubricates the joint and nourishes the cartilage.
How arthritis damages joints
The two main types of arthritis damage joints in different ways.
• Osteoarthritis – With osteoarthritis the wear and tear damage to cartilage can result in bone grinding directly on bone. This contributes to pain and restricts movement. The wear and tear usually occurs over years; however, it can hasten as a result of a joint injury or infection.
• Rheumatoid arthritis – In rheumatoid arthritis, the body’s immune system attacks joints and inflames the synovium, causing pain, swelling and redness. The disease can eventually destroy cartilage and bone within the joint.
Here is a list of steps to reach a diagnosis:
• Visit your doctor and give a history of your problems and the symptoms.
• Have x-rays done to check for any deformities and or inflammation.
• Have an examination done of other body parts/organs.
• Tests should be conducted on joint fluid, blood and urine.
A number of visits may be necessary to properly diagnose your condition. Your general practitioner is able to diagnose arthritis; however, in some instances, it may be best to visit a specialist in the field to get the precise status. This specialist is called a rheumatologist.
A rheumatologist is…
A medical doctor who specialises in dealing with rheumatic illnesses especially arthritis, in a nonsurgical way. Their interest is in unexplained rash, fever, arthritis, anemia, weakness, weight loss, fatigue, joint or muscle pain, autoimmune disease, and anorexia. They often serve as consultants, solving mysterious illnesses other doctors aren’t able to.
They evaluate the 100 plus types of arthritis with their special interests being in rheumatoid arthritis, spondylitis, psoriatic arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus, mixed connective tissue disease, osteoarthritis, back pain, gout, pseudogout, serum sickness, reactive arthritis, fibromyalgia, growing pains, osteoporosis, reflex sympathetic dystrophy, among many others.
A number of the other types of arthritis are more of an annoyance than serious. However, millions of people suffer daily with pain and disability from the condition or its complications. When a conclusive diagnosis is formed, regular checks with your provider is still advised. If on medication or alternative treatments, it is also advised to make progressive frequent checks.
It depends on the type of arthritis. Knowing what you are working with makes the chances of successful treatment higher. Available treatments include physical therapy, cold-pack application, heat treatments, anti-inflammatory and immune-altering medications, and surgical operations.
Like with some other ailments, sometimes different medications/treatments may have to be tried to determine which is/are most effective. It really varies from person to person and from condition to condition.
Home and Lifestyle Remedies
• Weight loss – Obesity, although many clients don’t like hearing it, is a major contributor in most conditions. Losing weight reduces the stress on your weight-bearing joints. It increases mobility and limits the risk of future joint injury.
• Exercise – Exercising aids in keeping the joints flexible. Swimming or water aerobics is often a good option because the water reduces stress on weight-bearing joints.
• Heat and cold – Heating pads or ice packs may help relieve arthritic pain.
• Assistive devices – Using canes, walkers, raised toilet seats and other assistive devices can help protect your joints and improve your ability to perform daily tasks.
Physical/Massage therapy can be helpful for some types of arthritis. Exercises can improve range of motion and strengthen the muscles surrounding joints. In some cases, splints or braces may be warranted. Use of walking aids while sometimes dreaded (from a fashion point of view), are necessary to support the person’s weight and more importantly, balance.
Some alternative remedies can reduce the symptoms of some types of arthritis but not others. The most promising alternative remedies for arthritis include:
• Acupuncture – This therapy uses fine needles inserted at specific points on the skin to reduce many types of pain, including that caused by some types of arthritis.
• Electrical Treatment – This helps with the management of pain.
• Yoga or Tai Chi – The slow, stretching movements associated with yoga and tai chi could aid in improving joint flexibility and range of motion in people with some types of arthritis.
When other methods don’t work, your practitioner may recommend surgery. Such surgeries are:
• Joint replacement – a procedure to remove a damaged joint and put in an artificial replacement. It is usually the joints at the hips and knees that are replaced.
• Joint fusion – Done mainly for smaller joints, the wrist, fingers and ankle. The ends of the two bones in the joint are removed and they are then merged together until they heal into one rigid unit.
Your feet mirror your general health . . . cherish them!