Osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis are the 2 most common types of arthritis.
Rheumatoid arthritis is a disease process where the bodies own immune system attacks the joints. It is extremely painful, requires a blood test for diagnosis and needs specialist treatment.
Osteoarthritis is by far the most common type of arthritis.
Osteo means bone, arth means joint and itis means inflammation. It is the type of arthritis you can do the most to minimize, manage or avoid.
Most osteoarthritis is caused by the accumulated mechanical stresses of living and aging. The more you’ve banged yourself around, and the older you get, the more likely you are to have some osteoarthritis.
Cause and effect
If there is chronic stiffness, imbalance or strain in your joints, bones and muscles, arthritis will creep in and will become permanent and progressive if you don’t do something about it.
Stiff Joints, Tight Muscles
The forerunners of osteoarthritis are stiff joints and tight muscles so you need to keep your joints flexible and your muscles supple with plenty of stretching and exercising, especially stretching.
Osteoarthritis develops slowly. The longer you’ve had it, the worse it tends to get. It is a progressive condition but it can be minimized and managed. With early intervention (stretching as a normal part of your life), it can be avoided or minimized.
Don’t wait til you are in bad pain or have X-ray evidence to act, by then damage has already started occur. If you have stiff joints get them moving like they used to. Prevention is much, much better than managing or suffering the consequences. With osteoarthritis, there is no cure.
The older you are, the more hours your joints have been moving or weight bearing and the more injuries, even minor ones, you’ll have had, so the more likely you are to have some osteoarthritis.
The older you get the more you have to work at managing the arthritis you have and avoiding the arthritis you don’t. You do that with plenty of stretching and exercising, especially stretching.
Arthritis is one of those problems that usually develops so slowly, at first you don’t even notice it.
Once you do start feeling it you just tend to ignore it because its not too bad, just a bit of stiffness and soreness that comes and goes.
You put it down to old injuries or getting older and you can’t do anything about either of those, right? A few pain killers or antinflammatories and it settles down soon enough.
And so the years roll by until it’s hurting most of the time, disturbing your sleep and limiting your activities.
You start ruling out the things you love to do, first the more vigorous ones then less and less so until going for a short walk, standing and talking to someone for 10 minutes or a spot of gardening hurts like crazy.
Eventually you’re consuming antinflammatories and other painkillers every day and they don’t even give the relief they used to. And they’re starting to mess with your guts.
If it’s your hip or knee – you start to look forward to having it replaced.
By this stage that is the only thing that will give you any decent relief and your quality of life back.
Unfortunately, there’s usually many years of pain, debility and sleepless nights before you qualify for surgery.
If you have joint replacement surgery, you must follow it up with some kind of manual therapy and exercise and stretching regime to get the best result.
Spines are a different story, they can not be replaced, so there are no second chances. Look after your spine like your quality of life depends on it, because it does.
If you have moderate or bad arthritis in your lower back, consider a flexible back brace to reduce the load and therefore wear and tear on your spine at times of greater stress. You should only wear the brace when you know it’s going to hurt if you don’t. Shopping, gardening, housework, long drives, etc. Don’t wear it all or even most of the time.
Residual stiffness causes arthritis
If you strain or injure a joint or break a bone, once you recover from the damage, you need to get that joint and the ones above and below it moving as well as they were before the injury.
It’s the residual stiffness that causes arthritis months or years later.
You need to restore full suppleness to the muscles and maximum mobility of all the joints in the area.
What you can do
Antinflammatories are OK for temporary relief – check with your doctor or pharmacist before you start using them because they can react badly with some other medications.
Glucosamine is an excellent supplement you can take to help repair and maintain joint surfaces.
If you look on any arthritis association site on the web you will find that they all recommend that you keep active to manage your problem. I completely agree.
Remember, you need to keep
- your joints need to be as flexible as possible
- your bones need to be properly aligned and
- your muscles need to be supple and strong.
If it hurts too much or you think you are past being able to walk for exercise, head for the pool. Preferably a heated one. Aquarobics and swimming are brilliant for anyone with mild to severe arthritis.
Most community based pools have exercise classes. If there are no classes, jump in, get wet and get moving.
Stretch and exercise
At any stage of osteoarthritis it is essential to keep the joints and muscles moving and functioning as well as they can.
Frequent stretching and exercising is the best way to help yourself.
A few times a week
You should be doing some sweat and pulse raising exercise at least a few times a week
A few times a day
If you have pain or stiffness you need to stretch for a few minutes at least a few times a day.