PT Weekly: All you need to know about Arthritis
Arthritis simply means inflammation of one or more joints of the body. It is a term used to describe over a 100 conditions that affect joints, the tissues that surround the joint, and other connective tissue. It is a rheumatic condition. The most common form of arthritis is osteoarthritis. Other common rheumatic conditions related to arthritis include gout, fibromyalgia, and rheumatoid arthritis (RA)
The main symptoms of arthritis are joint pain and stiffness, which typically worsen with age. Rheumatic conditions tend to involve pain, aching, stiffness, and swelling in and around one or more joints. The symptoms can develop gradually or suddenly. Certain rheumatic conditions can also involve the immune system and various internal organs of the body, such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus (SLE), can affect multiple organs and cause widespread symptoms.
Arthritis is more common among adults aged 55 years or older, but it can affect people of all ages, including children.
The most common signs and symptoms of arthritis involve the joints. Depending on the type of arthritis, signs and symptoms may include:
- Decreased range of motion
There is no single cause of all types of arthritis. The cause or causes vary according to the type or form of arthritis.
Possible causes may include:
- injury, leading to degenerative arthritis
- abnormal metabolism, leading to gout and pseudogout
- inheritance, such as in osteoarthritis
- infections, such as in the arthritis of Lyme disease
- immune system dysfunction, such as in RA and SLE
Most types of arthritis are linked to a combination of factors, but some have no obvious cause and appear to be unpredictable in their emergence. Some people may be genetically more likely to develop certain arthritic conditions and additional factors, such as previous injury, infection, smoking and physically demanding occupations, can interact with genes to further increase the risk of arthritis.
Certain risk factors have been associated with arthritis. Some of these are modifiable while others are not.
Non-modifiable arthritis risk factors:
- Age: the risk of developing most types of arthritis increases with age.
- Sex: most types of arthritis are more common in females, and 60 percent of all people with arthritis are female. Gout is more common in males than females.
- Genetic factors: specific genes are associated with a higher risk of certain types of arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA), systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) and ankylosing spondylitis.
Modifiable arthritis risk factors:
- Overweight and obesity: excess weight can contribute to both the onset and progression of knee osteoarthritis.
- Joint injuries: damage to a joint can contribute to the development of osteoarthritis in that joint.
- Infection: many microbial agents can infect joints and trigger the development of various forms of arthritis.
- Occupation: certain occupations that involve repetitive knee bending and squatting are associated with osteoarthritis of the knee.
Severe arthritis, particularly if it affects the hands or arms, can make it difficult to do daily tasks (Sweeping, washing etc).
Arthritis of weight-bearing joints can make walking and sitting up straight very discomforting. In some cases, joints may become twisted and deformed (Valgus or Varum).
There are many types of arthritis, or musculoskeletal conditions. These are split into seven main groups:
- Inflammatory arthritis
- Degenerative or mechanical arthritis
- Soft tissue musculoskeletal pain
- Back pain
- Connective tissue disease
- Infectious arthritis
- Metabolic arthritis.
Key strategies include:
- staying physically active
- achieving and maintaining a healthy weight
- getting regular check-ups with the doctor
- protecting joints from unnecessary stress
Doctors will often recommend sessions of physiotherapy after giving some Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Medication to help patients with arthritis overcome some of the challenges and to reduce limitations on mobility.
Forms of physiotherapy that may be recommended include but not limited to:
- Pain-relieving treatments such as ice or hot packs
- Hydrotherapy: exercises in a warm-water pool. The water supports weight and puts less pressure on the muscles and joints
- Specific exercises tailored to the condition and individual needs
- Therapeutic massage
- Assistive/Supportive devices. E.g walking cane, Walking frame, Braces etc.