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Mid-Week MOT: Arthritis


Almost everybody will be affected by some form of arthritis during their lifetime. We are quick to attribute any aches and pains over a certain age to "a bit of wear and tear arthritis". Whilst it may be true that if we were to MRI scan the population, a majority would show some degenerative changes in the joints of the their knees, hips and spines. This does not mean, however, that they have pain as a result.

Arthritis basically means "inflammation of a joint".

There are lots of types of arthritis but this article will be concerned with the two most common - osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

Osteoarthritis: OA

The ends of your bones at a joint are covered in smooth hyaline cartilage and lubricated with a thick synovial fluid, contained within a fibrous capsule or synovium. These features ensure energy efficient movement at the joint. Osteoarthritis occurs usually in single joints on one side of the body and is more prevalent in overweight people over 40 years of age and in joints that have previously been damaged.

According to Arthritis Research UK, there are currently 8 million sufferers in the UK.

OA is degenerative and begins when the smooth cartilage starts to wear and become thin. The underlying bone overgrows in response and you may develop bony spurs called osteophytes. This causes pain and swelling in the joint. The loss of space between the bone ends initially causes a laxity in the joint and the ligaments and tendons have to work harder to control movement. Eventually, the joint stiffens and pain increases as there is more bone on bone friction.

This condition usually causes morning stiffness for less than 30 minutes and improves with rest. The most commonly affected joints are the hips, knees and small joints of the hand. There may be clicking and cracking in joint - known as crepitus.

Osteoarthritis is diagnosed by analysis of symptoms and x-rays. Treatment involves analgesic medication, steroid injections and eventually joint replacement.

Losing weight, taking moderate exercise and access to good manual therapy can all help prevent this disease as it cannot be cured. We can, however, slow its progression.

For more information on osteoarthritis visit www.arthritisresearchuk.org

Rheumatoid Arthritis: RA

Approximately 400,000 people suffer with this disease, which generally strikes at the age of 40-50 but can effect any age group. More women are affected at a ratio of 3:1.

In the UK there are about 12,000 sufferers of juvenile arthritis too and at the moment there is no cure.

RA is a chronic inflammatory disease caused by an autoimmune reaction within the body. RA effects the joints and also other body systems, causing tiredness, weight loss, fever, loss of appetite, eye problems and cardiovascular issues. The disease can tend to be familial and it has been found that smoking directly increases your risk.

RA is a proliferation of the synovial fluid within the joint, causing swelling and inflammation and subsequent joint stiffness. The bone becomes eroded and it tends to have periods of flare up and then remission. The joint capsule becomes stretched and then when the swelling goes down the capsule is out of shape and lax and the muscles and ligaments have to work harder to stabilise the joint.

The disease is characterised by morning stiffness which lasts beyond 30 mins, and tends to be symmetrical - affecting joints on both sides of the body, particularly the small joints of the hands and feet. Sufferers may also develop nodules under the skin around the joint.

RA is diagnosed by blood tests and detection of rheumatoid factor. However, you can test positive for the factor and not have the disease.

Treatment of RA involves pain relief, steroid injections, good physical therapy, splinting of joints, hydrotherapy and eventual joint replacement.

For more information visit the national rheumatoid arthritis society website at: www.nras.org.uk

If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms please consult your GP as soon as possible.

As always, for osteopathy in High Wycombe and beyond, call Lucy from OsteoFusion on 07833 321604 or visit www.osteofusion.co.uk.

Thanks for reading.

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