Maybe pain occurs, like when trying to open a jar. What’s it all about? Let’s look at the basics and learn more.
Arthritis means “joint inflammation” and has over 100 related conditions or type/forms of the disease. Left untreated, it can advance, resulting in joint damage that cannot be undone or reversed. So early detection and treatment are important.
The two most common types of arthritis are osteoarthritis (OA) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Although both have similar symptoms, both happen for different reasons. When joints are overused and misused, the results can be OA. What happens is that the cushioning cartilage that protects the joint breaks down, resulting in the bones rubbing together. This generally happens in the knees but can be found in the hips, spine, and hands often, too. And only in later stages will a person most often feel pain, after quite a bit of cartilage is lost.
The second type, RA, refers to the body’s immune system attacking joint tissue. Still not fully understood in the medical community, this condition most often starts in a person’s hands, wrists and feet. Then it advances to shoulders, elbows, and hips.
Similar symptoms include pain, stiffness, fatigue, weakness, slight fever and inflamed tissue lumps under the skin. And both OA and RA generally develop symmetrically, i.e. affecting the same joints on both the left and right sides of the body.
A difference in OA and RA to note is with swelling. With RA, people report “soft and squishy” swelling. While with OA, people report “hard and bony” swelling. Another difference is that a person is more likely to develop RA if a sibling or parent had it. While a person with a history of joint damage, either an injury or chronic strain, runs a higher risk for developing OA.
There is no specific age for arthritis sufferers. While it can affect every age group, it seems to focus on those over 45 years of age. And while neither gender is immune, a reported 74 percent of OA cases (or just over 15 million) occur with women and a slightly lower percentage of RA cases occur with women. People with excess weight tend to develop OA, especially in the knees when reaching over 45 years of age. However, losing weight can turn the odds around almost by half. Regular activity combined with exercise also reduces risk, strengthening joint muscles and reducing joint wear.
Although there are no cure-alls for arthritis, there are a variety of pain relief treatment strategies. Aside from medications, remedies, replacement alternatives, and other helpful treatment options and alternatives, the four main arthritis relief aids are gentle exercises, good nutrition, a positive attitude and rest. And each will be discussed further in subsequent sections because education can play a huge role to dispel “old wives tales” and myths that “nothing can be done about arthritis.” Notable is that today, only a small percentage of those afflicted with arthritis become crippled. And most never need canes, wheelchairs, or other ambulatory devices.
Also note if you suspect you may have arthritis, it is advisable to seek medical advice. Because healthcare providers can help to determine if the symptoms are not something else like a virus or tendonitis or other similar problem that cold potentially worsen if left untreated.
Types Of Arthritis
There are many ways to effectively manage arthritic pain today to find relief. Available are arthritic diets, exercise programs, over-the-counter and prescription medications, relaxation and positive emotion coping techniques. Also available are surgeries, supplements, home remedies, natural and other alternative therapies. When arthritis is first suspected, it would be wise to seek a medical opinion first. Then as time and resources allow, check out the other options.
After osteoarthritis (OA) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA), three other major types of arthritis are systemic lupus erythematosus, ankylosing spondylitis, and gout. Let’s take a look at each:
Systemic Lupus Erythematosis (SLE) – This form of arthritis mainly affects women. It develops in the skin, internal organs and joints.
Ankylosing Spondylitis – This form of arthritis affects the spine and can also affect the ankles, knees, lungs, heart, shoulders, and eyes.
Gout – This is a painful affliction mainly for men, about one million of them in the United States alone. Uric acid builds up, due to an internal chemical malfunction, forms crystals that get stuck in a joint, generally the big toe, and become inflamed.
Science Of Arthritis
Joints can handle some heavy pressure. For example, knees handle a force of three to four times a person’s total body weight on average just talking a walk. The force of a deep knee bend during a squat can increase to nine times the body weight. So just imagine multiplying the weight of more than 150 pounds times a minimum of three or four, and then even more. That can sure add up to a lot of heavy work on knee joints over time.
Now for the science of this scenario. Where two bones meet, called the joint, the bone ends are covered with cartilage, also known as gristle
This cartilage is sturdy, elastic and spongy or compressible, and keeps the bones from moving against each other at the joint. The cells of this cartilage, called chondrocytes, are thought to be the longest living cells of the body. Surrounding the bones and cartilage is strong, fibrous capsule lined with synovium, a thin membrane that lubricates the joint area with fluid. The result is less friction or smoother rubbing together of the bones. This fluid also feds the cartilage cells, keeping them healthy, and is “pumped” into them during joint movement. Thus lack of movement (activity/exercise) can be unhealthy.
Other parts of the body features involved with this arthritic scenario include muscles, tendons, ligaments, bursae, and mental activity. Muscles, attached to bones with tendons and ligaments, move bones by contracting. They also cushion movement, absorbing impact or shock. Throughout the muscle and tendon areas are bursae or sacs filled with fluid. These also help cushion movement. And throughout all the coordination of these parts during movement, the brain is a part. The brain communicates via nerves throughout the body, in particular, the muscles for this scenario, to prepare joints for activity.
The exact science of what causes arthritis is still being researched. For most of the 100-plus forms of arthritis, the causes are unknown. Injury, overuse of joints and mechanical issues with joints (like skeletal abnormalities, worn out joint muscles) can lead to arthritis. And many point to issues relating to bacteria and germs as some of the problems. Heredity, stress, drugs, food allergies and viruses have also been linked to some forms of arthritis. So have diet, poor circulation and lack of movement.
Arthritic joints can be affected with inflammation when bacteria or a virus (or another undesirable element) enters the joint area or when an injury occurs. What happens is when foreign matter enters this area or the area sustains an injury, white blood cells, antibodies, and other natural “fighting” mechanisms automatically kick in internally to help. These fighters cause swelling, redness, and heat as the body fluid moves around. Symptoms of inflammation, one of the uncomfortable issues associated with arthritis, are redness, swelling, and tender joints.