13th March, 2013
Last week’s article on osteoporosis drew a lot of attention. It kind of awakened some form of awareness. Some readers desired to know more and some were simply grateful for the information. I got several phone calls and I am really impressed. This shows that people are beginning to take their health more seriously.
This week we shall take a look at a close relation of osteoporosis, and it is no other than ARTHRITIS
Arthritis affects the musculoskeletal system, specifically the joints. It is the main cause of disability among people over fifty-five years of age in developed and underdeveloped countries. It is characterised by painful inflammation and stiffness of the joint.
Arthritis is not a single disease, it is a term that covers over 100 medical conditions. Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common form of arthritis and generally affects elderly patients. Some forms of arthritis can affect people at a very early age.
In order to understand better what is going on when a person suffers from some form of arthritis, let us look at how a joint works.
Basically, a joint is where one bone moves on another bone. Ligaments hold the two bones together. The ligaments are like elastic bands, while they keep the bones in place your muscles relax or contract to make the joint move.
Cartilage covers the bone surface to stop the two bones from rubbing directly against each other. The covering of cartilage allows the joint to work smoothly and painlessly.
People used to believe that exercise and arthritis were as compatible as oil and water. Yet research demonstrates that the opposite is true. Exercise can actually decrease joint pain and stiffness, and improve flexibility, mobility, mood and overall wellness for those with arthritis [source: Center for Disease Control and Prevention].
Though it can be intimidating for those with osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia or lupus to begin exercising, when coupled with weight loss, it may be one of the best means for managing the disease, explains Patience White, M.D., M.A., vice president of public health at the Arthritis Foundation. Especially since people with arthritis are more likely to be overweight than not.
“Exercise keeps the muscles strong around a joint so that the mechanics works,” explains White. “In the lower extremities, the knee is usually the first joint to experience pain for the 27 million people who suffer from osteoarthritis. If a person loses about 10 pounds and keeps exercising, they can cut the pain in their knees by about 50 percent and can even postpone a joint replacement.”
If you have arthritis, something goes wrong with the joint(s). What goes wrong depends on what type of arthritis you have. It could be that the cartilage is wearing away, a lack of fluid, autoimmunity (your body attacking itself), infection, or a combination of many factors.
TYPES OF ARTHRITIS
There are over 100 types of arthritis. Here is a description of some common ones, together with the causes:
Osteoarthritis – cartilage loses its elasticity. If the cartilage is stiff, it becomes damaged more easily. The cartilage, which acts as a shock absorber, will gradually wear away in some areas. As the cartilage becomes damaged tendons and ligaments become stretched, causing pain. Eventually the bones may rub against each other causing very severe pain.
Rheumatoid arthritis – this is an inflammatory form of arthritis. The synovial membrane (synovium) is attacked, resulting in swelling and pain. If left untreated the arthritis can lead to deformity. Rheumatoid arthritis is significantly more common in women than men and generally strikes when the patient is aged between 40 and 60. However, children and much older people may also be affected. Swedish scientists published their study in JAMA in October 2012, explaining that patients with rheumatoid arthritis have a higher risk of blood clots in the first ten years after diagnosis.
Infectious arthritis (septic arthritic) – an infection in the synovial fluid and tissues of a joint. It is usually caused by bacteria, but could also be caused by fungi or viruses. Bacteria, fungi or viruses may spread through the bloodstream from infected tissue nearby, and infect a joint. Most susceptible people are those who already have some form of arthritis and develop an infection that travels in the bloodstream. Infectious arthritis – The patient has a fever, joint inflammation and swelling. He will feel tenderness and/or a sharp pain. Often these symptoms are linked to an injury or another illness. Most commonly affected areas are the knee, shoulder, elbow, wrist and finger. In the majority of cases, just one joint is affected.
What are the signs and symptoms of arthritis?
The symptoms of arthritis depend on the type of arthritis, for example:
Osteoarthritis develops slowly and get worse as time goes by. There is pain in a joint, either during or after use, or after a period of inactivity. There will be tenderness when pressure is applied to the joint. The joint will be stiff, especially first thing in the morning. The patient may find it harder to use the joint – it loses its flexibility. Some patients experience a grating sensation when they use the joint. Hard lumps, or bone spurs may appear around the joint. In some cases the joint might swell. The most common affected joints are in the hips, hands, knees and spine.
Rheumatoid patients often finds the same joints in each side of the body are painfully swollen, inflamed, and stiff. The fingers, arms, legs and wrists are most commonly affected. Symptoms are usually worse on waking up in the morning and the stiffness can last for 30 minutes at this time. The joint is tender when touched. Hands may be red and puffy. There may be rheumatoid nodules (bumps of tissue under the skin of the patient’s arms). Many patients with rheumatoid arthritis feel tired most of the time. Weight loss is common.
The smaller joints are usually noticeably affected first. Experts say patients with rheumatoid arthritis have problems with several joints at the same time. As the arthritis progresses it spreads from the smaller joints in your hands, wrists, ankles and feet to your elbows, knees, hips, neck, shoulders and jaw.
Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis – The patient is a child. He will experience intermittent fevers which tend to peak in the evening and then suddenly disappear. His appetite will be poor and he will lose weight. There may be blotchy rashes on his arms and legs. Anemia is also common. The child may limp or have a sore wrist, finger, or knee. A joint may suddenly swell and stay larger than it usually is. The child may experience a stiff neck, hips or some other joint.
How will arthritis affect me?
Arthritis affects people in many different ways. How long the patient is affected and how severely it is depends on the type of arthritis. Arthritis sufferers will find there are good and bad days. Most patients with arthritis will suffer from discomfort, pain, stiffness and/or fatigue.
You may also feel frustrated that you are no longer able to grip things so well or get around like you used to. It is important to remember that if you suffer from arthritis, it does not mean you have to give up having an active lifestyle. With some changes in your way of life there is no reason why you cannot continue being active.
Because arthritis is a joint disease, my advice is:
Focus more on exercises that will help you move your joints more often and improve joint function . Examples of these exercises are dancing, doing high-impact aerobics, jogging/running, stair climbing, cycling, biking, swimming, walking and stretching.
Low-impact weight-bearing exercises can also help keep joints flexible and are a safe alternative if you cannot do high-impact exercises.
Examples of low-impact weight-bearing exercises are using elliptical training machines,doing low-impact aerobics, using stair-step machines, fast walking on a treadmill or outside, etc.
But how does one begin? Before starting any exercise program, make sure it’s OK with your physician. I recommends that you do 30 minutes of moderate physical exercise five times a week for joint health. And remember to eat for good health.
For questions and answers connect with me @ www.facebook.com/BodyConfidenceFitnessClub.