Although ‘arthritis’ is a common term that we hear in our daily lives, most of us don’t know much about it. For many, it just refers to any form of joint pain. In reality, ‘arthritis’ is an umbrella term that refers to a group of medical conditions that affect the musculoskeletal system, particularly joints. It is one of the leading causes of disability and chronic pain in Australia and affects more than 3.9 million adults and children every year.
Being diagnosed with arthritis can be a source of many concerns and questions. Here is some information you need to better understand arthritis symptoms and how to treat them.
What is Arthritis?
The term ‘arthritis’ actually refers to ‘joint pain’, ‘joint disease’ or ‘joint inflammation’. It is not a diagnosis in itself; rather the term ‘arthritis’ is used to describe around 200 medical conditions that affect joints, connective tissues, and tissues that surround the joints. Joints are places in the body where two or more bones meet; they consist of muscles, cartilage, tendons, ligaments, and other connective tissues. Muscles keep the bones in place while the cartilage acts as a cushion and helps reduce the friction between the bones and makes movement smooth. When the cartilage breaks down in a joint, the bones start to rub together; this causes pain, swelling, and stiffness. Arthritis can affect nearly every joint in the body and many different parts of a joint.
What Causes Arthritis?
Because there are more than 100 different forms of arthritis and each type affects the joints in a different way, it is important to know more about the different forms in order to come up with a better treatment plan. Osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis are the two most common forms of joint diseases. Osteoarthritis affects the whole joint and causes damage to the bone, cartilage, ligaments or the muscles. Whereas rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is actually a type of autoimmune disease in which a person’s own immune system starts to target and destroy the lining of the joints, causing chronic inflammation and pain, leading to possible deformity and disability.
Symptoms of Arthritis
The symptoms of arthritis usually take some time to appear, but sometimes they can also appear suddenly. Arthritis is more common in women than men and usually affects people who are obese and over the age of 65, but it can also affect children, teens, and younger adults. The most common symptoms associated with arthritis are:
- Joint pain
- Joint swelling
- Joint tenderness
- Joint stiffness
- Deformity of joints
- Grinding sensations
- Lumps and bumps around joints
- Redness or warmth in joints
People who suffer from rheumatoid arthritis may experience additional symptoms such as:
- Loss of appetite
- Joint deformity
How to Treat Arthritis
Treatment of arthritis will eventually depend on the type of arthritis, the severity of the symptoms, your physical health, and your age. Since there is no permanent cure for this ailment, the treatment is aimed at:
- controlling pain
- minimising joint damage
- improving or maintaining function
- preventing further damage to the joints
Luckily, there are a range of medications, manual therapy services, and lifestyle strategies that can help alleviate the symptoms associated with arthritis and protect joints from further damage An aquatic therapy may also help relieve your joint pain. Depending on your condition, your doctor may suggest any of the following treatment plans:
Best treatments for arthritis
- myotherapy or other physical therapies
- splints or joint assistive aids
- non-pharmacologic therapies
- patient education and support