We often hear the word arthritis thrown around any time someone has prolonged join pain or discomfort, especially if they are aging, but what does that even mean? Many patients come in thinking that they will be severely disabled once they have been diagnosed, however, it isn’t as scary as it sounds. With a few lifestyle changes, pain and discomfort can be easily managed and you can be living your best life, even in your later years.
Arthritis is a blanket term for any type of joint pain or disease, there are hundreds of types of arthritis which can be caused by age, inflammation or even infection. Understanding which type of arthritis you have can have a significant impact on the treatment plan and course of action.
The most common forms of arthritis are osteoarthritis (OA) and rheumatoid Arthritis (RA).
Osteoarthritis occurs when the cushions between your joints gradually deteriorate. This cushion, called cartilage, is a firm, slippery tissue that allows for fluid joint movement. With OA, the cartilage becomes rough and if it completely wears down, you are left with bone on bone contact. OA presents as pain, stiffness, loss of range of motion or clicking/grinding sound with movement. Generally, people with OA feel stiffness in the morning or with inactivity, pain after excessive activity or at the end of the day and sometimes mild swelling of the joints.
While there is no cure for osteoarthritis, there are ways to minimize pain and discomfort and slow progression. Here are some treatments and lifestyle modifications that can offer relief:
- Exercise- regular exercise can strengthen muscles which helps to stabilize joints. Biking and swimming are both excellent options as they are low impact. It is important to start slowly with exercise and listen to your body – don’t overdo it.
- Weight Control- having excess weight can put extra pressure to joints especially knees and hips. Loosing a small amount of weight can take pressure off joints.
- Heat and cold- applying heat can help reduce muscle stiffness and cold can help with pain and inflammation.
- Physical Therapy – a physical therapist and chiropractor will be able to help with increasing the range of motion of the joint, reducing inflammation, and offering a personalized program to help strengthen muscles around the joint to help stabilize the joint and reduce pain.
- Bracing/Orthotics – While bracing is a great option to immobilize and relieve pressure on joints, ensuring that the brace isn’t too rigid will avoid muscle “laziness” you don’t want your body to have to rely on the brace, its only meant to assist.
Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is autoimmune, meaning that your body is essentially attacking itself at the joint, causing bilateral inflammation of the joint lining. This can cause pain, stiffness, redness and swelling. RA generally acts in flares – patients will go through periods where there is active inflammation and then remission. The goal of treatment is to get the disease into remission – this is achieved through medication that aims to reduce pain and further joint damage. While medication helps with flare ups, there are other things that can be done to help relieve pain and reduce pressure on the joints:
- Physical Therapy- physical therapists will be able to help patients keep joints flexible as well as show ways to accomplish daily tasks while minimizing pressure on joints.
- Diet- Some studies show that increased omega 3 fatty acids and fish oils can help decrease inflammation
- Rest- maintaining a modest level of exercise is recommended but aggressive exercise can cause increase joint inflammation. Proper rest is important to avoid intensifying joint inflammation.
If you’re suffering from arthritis, give us a call! Our therapists are happy to help get you moving your best! We aim in decrease pain and get you back to living your best life.
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Proactive Health Group offers: Physiotherapy, Massage Therapy, Acupuncture, Chiropractic Care and Custom Orthotics and much more!
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