Arthritis affects millions of people in the United States, causing pain, stiffness, and reduced mobility. To better manage arthritis, it’s essential to understand its different types, causes, and treatment options. In this article, we’ll focus on osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis, while also touching on other types, such as rheumatoid arthritis and gout.
Types of Arthritis:
- Osteoarthritis (OA) – Also known as degenerative joint disease, OA is the most prevalent form of arthritis. It occurs when the cartilage in joints breaks down over time, causing pain and stiffness.
- Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) – This inflammatory arthritis occurs when the body’s immune system attacks its own joints and tissues. RA causes redness, pain, and warmth in the joints and may lead to deformities in the hands and feet. It is diagnosed through blood tests and typically requires medication for management.
- Gout – Unlike other forms of arthritis, gout usually results in acute attacks. Severe pain, often in the big toe, arises from an excess of uric acid in the blood. This chemical forms crystals within the joint, which require medication and dietary changes to dissolve and prevent flare-ups.
- Psoriatic Arthritis – Sometimes, the skin condition psoriasis is accompanied by joint pain and stiffness. The cause of psoriatic arthritis isn’t fully understood, but it may share an autoimmune origin with RA.
- Lyme Disease – A tick-borne illness first discovered in Lyme, CT, Lyme disease can cause recurring joint pain in chronic cases.
Other causes of arthritis include lupus, fibromyalgia, and ankylosing spondylitis.
Causes of Degenerative Arthritis
Degenerative arthritis occurs when joints wear down over time. Genetics and injuries can influence the progression of this breakdown, but everyone is susceptible to some extent.
Joint cartilage and ligaments are the primary tissues affected by degenerative arthritis. The good news is that our bodies can repair and adapt to new movement patterns, as seen in x-ray diagnoses of arthritis.
Symptoms of Osteoarthritis
Since the pain is arising from long term malfunction or injury to a joint, there is often chronic or periodic pain in the area in the years leading up to the diagnosis of arthritis. This generally feels like any other type of musculoskeletal pain, aching or soreness with intermittent sharp pain, especially with movement. This type of pain pattern can continue after arthritis becomes evident on x-ray, but there is also an “arthritic” type pain that develops with more advanced degeneration.
Arthritic pain is usually described as a gradual, deep ache that comes on after overexerting a joint with arthritis. The pain increases over a few days, stays for some time, then starts to recede. The joint often feels very stiff, and there is an urge to move it or rub it for relief.
Chiropractic Treatment of Arthritis
Dr French specializes in musculoskeletal pain and injuries, so for degenerative type arthritis, our office is a good place to start. We can help diagnose the pain, to determine whether the pain is from an injury to the joint or is actually from arthritis. Even if you have seen arthritis on an xray, which everyone develops over time, your current pain may not be from that condition.
If we determine that arthritis is causing your pain, nothing can be done to reverse the condition. But, we can do a lot to reduce or eliminate the symptoms. We use Chiropractic adjustments to move nearby joints that are putting more strain on the arthritic joint. At home, arthritis pain responds better to moist heat than ice. In fact, it is one of the few times I prefer to use heat over ice for pain. There is debate in the scientific community whether cold weather actually makes arthritis pain worse. Movement is also key to limiting pain. As the joint degenerates, it appears that it loses its ability to lubricate itself. One of the treatments for moderate arthritis in the knee is an injection of lubricating fluid. Light exercise stimulates crucial joint fluid production. I can recommend exercises that can keep the joints loose, and give some ideas on how to avoid flare ups.