What is arthritis?
Arthritis (‘arth’ meaning joint, ‘itis’ meaning inflammation) is a broad term that covers a group of conditions that all similarly cause joint damage.
With more than 100 different types of arthritis and almost as many different causes, it would be a lot to describe them all. Instead, we will concentrate on two of the most common, osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
To understand these different types of arthritis and how they affect you, we first need to understand how a healthy joint functions. There are many different types of joints in the human body, however they all share a common basic structure.
All your joints consist of two bones coming together with both ends covered by a smooth lining called cartilage. In a healthy joint, the cartilage cushions the bone and allows your joints to move smoothly and easily. Your joints also contain synovial fluid within it, to help reduce friction and wear.
In osteoarthritis, the cartilage begins to get damaged and wear away, exposing the bone surfaces which rub together and cause more damage. The stressed bone surfaces may then start forming abnormal growths, known as bone spurs, which can cause irritation and swelling, leading to further damage and restriction. As this process continues your joints become harder to move and reduces your joints range of motion.
In rheumatoid arthritis, the joint lining swells, invading surrounding tissues, and producing chemical substances that attack and destroy the joint surface. This commonly occurs in the joints of the hands and feet first. It is found more commonly in women and can even begin in childhood!
What causes arthritis?
With so many different types of arthritis, there are also many different causes of arthritis. Often multiple factors can be found to bring about the formation of arthritis in your body. Some of the main factors that may contribute to the formation of arthritic changes include the following,
- Genetics – How much genetics contribute overall to the cause of arthritis is not well understood. However, the chance of you developing some types of arthritis is increased if other family members have had it.
- Age – Cartilage becomes more brittle with age and has less of a capacity to repair itself. As you age you are more likely to develop arthritis.
- Weight – Joint damage is partly dependent on the load the joint has to support. Excess body weight puts extra force and pressure on your joints. This is especially true of the hips and knees which take a lot of weight bearing load.
- Previous Injury– Joint damage can cause irregularities in the normal smooth joint surface. Previous major injuries can be part of the cause of arthritis. Our Spinecare Adelaide chiropractors also find that repetitive minor trauma over time can accelerate the formation of arthritic changes.
- Occupational – Workers in some specific occupations seem to have a higher risk of developing arthritis than other jobs. These are primarily high demand physical jobs such as assembly line workers and heavy construction.
- Some High-Level Sports – It is difficult to determine how much sports participation contributes to development of arthritis. Certainly, sports participation can lead to joint injury and subsequent arthritis.
- Illness or Infection – People who experience a joint infection (septic joint), multiple episodes of gout, or other medical conditions, can develop arthritis of the joint.
What are the common types of arthritis?
There are two major types of arthritis: osteoarthritis which is the “wear and tear” arthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis: an inflammatory type of arthritis that happens when the body’s immune system does not work properly. Gout, which is caused by crystals that collect in the joints, is another common type of arthritis. Psoriatic arthritis, lupus, and septic arthritis are other types of the condition.
What does arthritis feel like?
The common complaints from someone affected with arthritis include: joint pain, stiffness, tenderness and inflammation. In the later phases complaints can extend to weakness, instability and deformities of various descriptions.Depending on the type of arthritis, the pain can be isolated to one joint or multiple joints, small and large, from fingers to shoulders including spinal regions.
Often lower back pain, hip pain and neck pain are the most common symptoms people seek chiropractic care for arthritic pain relief. Arthritis is often considered a progressive, crippling and debilitating disease process. The effects on your life can range from mild to severe. For many, simple tasks like checking your blind spot, hanging up the washing or even just pouring a glass of water can be difficult, especially while in an acute episode.
How can Spinecare Chiropractic help with arthritis?
Let us say from the start that chiropractic care cannot remove the damage done to joints from arthritis. However, what Spinecare Chiropractic can do is to improve the function of your joints and reduce the ongoing discomfort, restriction and inflammation that can occur. Combined with exercises and often nutritional advice, chiropractic care can help to reduce the pain of arthritis and ultimately improve your quality of life.
One of the best analogies to explain how chiropractic can help with arthritis is to think of your joint as a hinge on a door. Imagine the hinge joint is a little rusty (which is the arthritis) and hence the door squeaks and doesn’t move how it should. Over time the rust increases and the hinge joint condition continues to deteriorate. A chiropractor’s job is not to remove the rust (the arthritis) but add oil to the hinge joint. It’s the oil (or chiropractic care) that makes the door move better, no longer squeak, and as a result, may reduce the rate the hinge door rusts (wears) in the future.
Spinecare Chiropractic can help you determine if arthritis is affecting you during Your Initial Consultation. If arthritic changes are present, your Spinecare Adelaide chiropractor may help you relieve the pain and discomfort we so often see.