There are virtually dozens of problems or pathologies that are considered Arthritis, however two of the most common types of Arthritis are Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis.
Fundamentally Arthritis is inflammation of the joints within the body as described by the name “arthro” being “joint” and “itis” meaning “inflammation.”
When inflammation is present in the joint it often brings pain, although not all joint pain is Arthritis, so before you begin to worry it is best to check with your health care professional.
Here is a quick introduction to the structure of joints to help you understand Arthritis. Joints are like hinges and the surfaces at the end of the bones where they connect is made up of cartilage, which is a smooth material that allows the bones to glide smoothly over one another.
Also, surrounding the joints are fibrous connective tissues called Ligaments which form a sleeve that encapsulates the joint and attaches the bones to one another. Within this sleeve is the synovial membrane; joint lubrication called synovial fluid is produced by the body to prevent wear.
Everyone over the age of 65 will develop Osteoarthritis to some degree; one research study found that 37% of all adults have Osteoarthritis in their hands or feet.
Doctors generally refer to this type of Arthritis as Degenerative Joint Disease or if it is specifically located in the back, it is known as Degenerative Disc Disease and although it sounds rather scary it’s the most common and least serious type of Arthritis.
Osteoarthritis is simply wear and tear of the cartilage, but because cartilage is not sensitive to pain, you’ll most likely not realize that you have Osteoarthritis.
Typically with Osteoarthritis your joints feel stiff in the morning and as the day progresses and you have moved around for a while, the joints will loosen up. You may even notice your joints make crackling or crunching sounds with movement.
With Osteoarthritis inflammation in the joint is minimal and will only feel an aching sensation after excessive activity, particularly in the early stages of degeneration.
Rheumatoid arthritis on the other hand is a systemic autoimmune disease which affects only about 1% of adults and whereas Osteoarthritis usually develops as you get older, Rheumatoid Arthritis can occur at any age.
The causes of Rheumatoid Arthritis are not yet fully understood but research continues in this area, although experts say that some people are more at risk due to heredity factors.
Rheumatoid Arthritis usually affects the hands, feet, hips and knees however because this type of Arthritis is considered systemic, it can affect many of your body systems such as your heart, lungs, nerves and skin.
The immune system’s normal response is to ward off infections, however if you have autoimmune disease such as Rheumatoid Arthritis, the immune system begins attacking the body’s healthy tissues instead of infections and other foreign biological intruders.
With Rheumatoid Arthritis, the immune system attacks the synovial membrane which is the lining of the joints, causing inflammation and joint damage, particularly if left untreated.
Symptoms appear over a period of weeks or months and the joints become painful, hot and swollen and stiff, especially in the morning and often accompanied by fatigue, fever, and diffuse pain.
The swelling appears when the joint produces too much synovial fluid in response to the inflammation.
The course and severity of Rheumatoid Arthritis varies from person to person, and may change from day to day and there may be times when it has “flared up” and other times when it is inactive and does not bother you, however over time joints particularly in the hands and feet often become somewhat deformed.
An interesting fact is that both sides of your body are affected equally.
Other Arthritic Conditions
There are many other other types of Arthritis, all of which are systemic conditions and are relatively rare. These include Lupus, Ankylosing Spondylitis, Psoriatic Arthritis, Reiter’s syndrome.
What differentiates each of these types of Arthritis is the specific joints and body organs that become affected and the severity of the symptoms.
Help is at hand…
Fortunately, there are things you can do to prevent and manage these conditions.
It is imperative that you take proactive measures by managing your tension and maintaining good posture to prevent excessive or uneven pressure on your joints which may lead to undue wear and tear.
You can do this by practicing relaxation exercises and stretching, corrective posture exercises and combining these with regular massage therapy.
If you want to learn how to improve your posture ask your health care professional to do a postural assessment and get some simple exercises to help correct imbalances.
As a Massage Therapist I have been trained in myofascial release and deep tissue techniques that manually stretch out and release shortened muscles that are pulling your body out of alignment; trigger point therapy to reduce referred pain and muscle spasm; and when necessary, joint mobilization to stretch tightened joints and restore your mobility.
Importantly, inactivity can actually cause cartilage to deteriorate earlier, so if you have a sedentary job, make sure to take frequent breaks and engage in some low impact activities like walking, swimming, biking or any activity that you enjoy doing on a regular basis.
You should only consider surgery as a last resort after conservative treatment has failed and pain and limitation in movement interferes with your day-to-day activities in a significant way.
Lastly, I cannot stress enough the need for a proper nutritious diet in lowering the risk of developing Arthritis, especially yellow or orange fruits and vegetables, which are high in Beta-cryptoxanthin (Vitamin A Carotenoids), as they are recognized as being important for skin and bone health as well as immune function.
Did you know that drinking just one glass of freshly squeezed orange juice a day may cut the risk of developing inflammatory forms of arthritis?
Also, supplementation such as Essential Fatty Acids and a combination of Glucosamine sulfate and Chondroitin are important.
Treatment of Arthritis most often involves the use of medications to manage pain and inflammation. However in conjunction with nutritional joint support, massage therapy and exercise, a person can usually minimize their pain and discomfort significantly without relying heavily on medications. Book in a Massage Treatment today.