Arthritis, joint pain, wear and tear
Pain in one or more joints could be arthritis. In fact, it is. The word ‘arthritis’ derives from the Greek word -artho, meaning ‘joint’, and ‘itis’ meaning inflammation.
Joint pain, stiffness, tenderness, joint inflammation, reduced movement, redness and warmth around the joint, muscular weakness and wasting, can all be symptoms of the disease.
To be honest, arthritis is pretty rubbish. It can restrict a person’s ability to lead an ordinary life. In the clinic, we hear stories of arthritic hips causing pain and an inability to walk for even short distances. Arthritis of the hands making it impossible to open a can of pickled onions and similarly, arthritis in the knees making climbing stairs painful or kneeling on the floor to play with the grandchildren very difficult indeed.
There are four types of arthritis:
- Degenerative arthritis – Of this group, osteoarthritis is the most common. The cartilage that cushions the joint wears done and the joint begins to rub bone against bone, causing discomfort, stiffness and sometimes swelling. The pain persists and the muscles lose strength. Increased weight, previous trauma (ie meniscus tear), age and family history can all be risk factors.
- Inflammatory arthritis – Rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, gout and ankylosing arthritis, are all examples of this disease. Our body is great at keeping us healthy with an immune system. It creates inflammation to rid us of infection and disease, but in some people, this immune system does not work properly. It can be destructive with too much inflammation, causing joint erosion. Scientists believe a person’s environment and genetics may trigger this autoimmune reaction.
- Infectious arthritis – Organisms can sometimes infect our joints causing infectious arthritis. A virus, bacteria or fungus may cause inflammation when entering a joint. Blood infections such as Hepatitis C can cause arthritis. Some sexually transmitted diseases and food poisoning may also cause joint inflammation and pain.
- Metabolic arthritis – Purine, a substance found in many foods and also in human cells is broken down by the body, forming uric acid. In some people, the body produces too much naturally or is unable to rid itself of it quickly enough. When this happens, the build-up of uric acid begins to form sharp, needle-like crystals in joints, which can cause incredible pain for those affected (Gout). If the levels of uric acid are not reduced then the ongoing issue can become chronic, causing temporary pain or ongoing disability.
What you can do
Getting an accurate diagnosis of your condition is the first step. Pain relief medications may help or other medicines may be prescribed depending on the arthritis type. Maintaining movement is essential to keep muscles strong and the joints flexible. Maintaining a healthy weight and improving diet can also help with some types of arthritis. Seeking help and assistance from a qualified osteopath for specific arthritis rehabilitation is also advised, to help reduce the pain felt from this debilitating group of conditions.