Arthritis is considered to be a big family of conditions which has over a hundred sub-types. Osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis as the most common. Recognizing the symptoms and seeking treatment from a qualified healthcare provider is the first step in dealing with your diagnosis.
Types of Arthritis
Osteoarthritis (OA), also known as degenerative joint disease is a condition where the cartilage that acts as cushion between the bones breakdown or wears down over time. It affects millions of people worldwide particularly the elderly population. This condition commonly affects the joints in our hands, knees, hips and spine.
The risk factors for osteoarthritis include old age, obesity, sex (women are more likely to have this condition than men), previous joint injury or trauma, overuse of the joint, weak thigh muscles, bone deformities (malformed joints or defective cartilage) and genetics. The most common symptoms of osteoarthritis are stiff joints after long period of rest or inactivity, joint pain, tenderness, joint locking and decreased flexibility. Bone to bone contact could lead to bone spurs which will result to pain.
Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) on the other hand, is an autoimmune disease in which the body's immune system mistakenly attacks the joints in the body. It affects the small joints of the hands and feet. The joint's lining is usually the target which causes pain and swelling. In the long run, these will result to bone erosion and joint deformity. Sometimes, organs such as skin, eyes, lungs and blood vessels are also affected by RA. Like osteoarthritis, this condition also affects women than men. Joint pain, tenderness, warm and swollen joints, rheumatoid nodules (firm bumps of tissue under the skin) and morning stiffness are the symptoms of RA. It can affect people in any age and affects the joints on both sides of the body (bilateral affectation). 80% of individuals with RA have an antibody called “rheumatoid factor” in their blood.
Common Areas in the Body Affected by Arthritis:
The type of arthritis which affects the low back targets the cartilage, including the disk of the spine to break down. An individual with arthritis of the low back start to experience pain, weakness, numbness and tingling sensation to one leg up to the foot due to the pressure on the nerves exiting the spine. About 95% of people over 50 years old will have arthritis of the spine but symptoms may start at the age of 30.
The knee is the most common area for arthritis to develop. Approximately 3.6% of the world's population suffers from knee arthritis. Both the young and elderly population may develop knee arthritis.
Arthritis in the neck is commonly called cervical spondylosis which affects more than 85% of people over age 60 are affected. Just like the arthritis in the lower back, cervical spondylosis is the degeneration of the joints in the neck and as the condition progresses, pain, weakness and numbness may also develop to one upper extremity.
The wear and tear of the hip joint's cartilage is caused by mechanical stress. Aging process, repetitive abnormal stresses, joint trauma and obesity are the common causes of hip arthritis.
The bones in the hands lose their normal shape due to arthritis. This will then result to pain and limitation of motion. Nodules and hand deformities develop also develop.
• Weight loss – Being overweight adds more stress on the weight bearing joints (like knees and hips). Modify your lifestyle and maintain a healthy weight.
• Ice/heat – Both heat and cold compress aid in reducing pain and inflammation.
• Exercise – It is the most important treatment in arthritis. Stay active. You can walk, bike or swim. Strengthening exercise can also help increase the endurance and strength of your muscles.
• Chiropractic – The role of chiropractic in arthritis treatment is to get the body move freely. Regular chiropractic treatment helps prevent the damaging effects of arthritis.
• Massage Therapy – The use of this technique improves pain, stiffness, range of motion, grip strength and over all joint function.
• Medications – Symptoms of arthritis may be relieved by medications like acetaminophen and Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs). Acetaminophen aids in reducing pain but not inflammation while NSAIDs may reduce inflammation and decrease pain. Common side effects of these drugs are stomach upset, bleeding problems, liver and kidney damage.
• Surgery – If pain is too severe that the individual cannot perform his/her daily activities and conservative treatment failed, surgery is recommended although sometimes, the outcome is poor. Joint arthroplasty and osteotomy are the common surgical procedures done to patients who have osteoarthritis.