Arthritis affects many people as they grow older. The word 'arthritis' literally means inflammation of the joints. It can, however, affect any number of joints from one upwards. It is very important to differentiate between the many types of arthritis as they have quite different causes and patterns.

 

For this article, I shall concentrate on only the two most common types that we see in clinic – osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Other types include psoriatic arthritis, septic arthritis, gout, juvenile idiopathic arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis and many others.

 

Rheumatism – is an older term used in the past to describe a variety of conditions affecting the joints, muscles, bones and tendons. Arthritis was the most prevalent condition, but others included lupus, fibromyalgia, bursitis, rheumatic fever etc

 

Osteoarthritis - sometimes known as degenerative arthritis, is by far the most common form of arthritis. If you live beyond the age of 75, the chances are that you’ll suffer with osteoarthritis. Symptoms include joint swelling with pain and stiffness, often accompanied by a rough and raspy sensation on movement that is called crepitous. Usually, osteoarthritis will affect one side at a time, although it is not uncommon for both sides to become affected in the fullness of time. The cause is not fully understood, but we do know that certain factors make osteoarthritis more likely. Being overweight increases the likelihood of osteoarthritis in the weight bearing joints. Exercise is less clear cut. Being unfit increases the likelihood of osteoarthritis. Conversely we also know that military personnel suffer with more osteoarthritis than comparable age groups in the general population. Exercise therefore needs to be tailored to your particular situation. If you are unfit, you need to start with gentle low impact exercise. If you’ve been running competitively for the last 60 years without osteoarthritis, you have strong joints that are genetically stronger than average and/or have grown stronger through healthy lifestyle. At West Country Osteopaths, we also believe strongly that a healthy diet reduces inflammation and promotes stronger joints.

 

As well as exercise, osteopathic manipulation improves joint mobility and comfort, which may be further enhanced with postural improvements, and changes to the use of joints during work and exercise.

 

Rheumatoid arthritis – is a systemic autoimmune disease affecting the cartilage in the joints and causing lots of inflammation. Rheumatoid arthritis is far less common than osteoarthritis affecting approximately 1% of the population. Symptoms include morning stiffness in the joints for more than one hour, symptoms on both sides (i.e. both knees, both hips), loss of joint mobility and joint deformity over time. Rheumatoid arthritis is normally a lifelong condition, although careful management through diet and exercise may improve the condition and bring long periods of remission.

 

Range of motion exercises and gentle manipulation helps to maintain joint mobility and keep muscles strong.