WHAT IS ARTHRITIS?
Arthritis is a term that describes joint inflammation and can affect one or more joints. Clinical research and experience have shown that there are more than 100 types of arthritis in existence. Causes and treatments differ for each. However, there are two main types of arthritis – osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
Arthritis symptoms develop gradually – over a set period, but in some cases, they may have an acute onset (appearing suddenly). Arthritis is common among the geriatric population (people above the age of 65). However, younger adults, teens, and children can also develop this condition. The incidence of arthritis is also higher in women than in men and overweight people.
HOW DO I KNOW THAT I HAVE ARTHRITIS? WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS?
The major symptoms of arthritis are stiffness, joint pain, and swelling. An arthritic patient also has a decreased range of motion. The skin surrounding the joint may also appear red. Many arthritis patients experience intense symptoms early in the morning.
Loss of appetite and unexplained tiredness are common in rheumatoid arthritis. They are caused by the inflammation triggered by activities of the immune system. Anemia is also a symptom in arthritic patients, and sometimes, the patient may experience a slight fever. If rheumatoid arthritis is not treated on time, the joint may be deformed.
WHAT CAUSES ARTHRITIS?
Everyone has cartilage. It is a flexible but firm connective tissue in the joints. It acts as a shock absorber, thus protecting your joints when you move or subject them to stress. Arthritis results when the cartilage tissue wears off.
Osteoarthritis is one of the commonest forms of arthritis. It is caused by normal wear and tear of the cartilage tissue. An injury or infection to the joints can accelerate cartilage tissue breakdown. People who have a family history of osteoarthritis are more at risk of developing the disease.
Rheumatoid arthritis is another common form of arthritis. It is an autoimmune disorder – this means that it occurs when your immune system attacks your body tissues. These attacks are targeted at the synovium. The synovium is a tissue that produces the synovial fluid. Rheumatoid arthritis is a disease of the synovium. It invades and destroys the joint. Eventually, it destroys both the cartilage and the bone within the joint.
We do not fully understand what causes these immune attacks. But clinical research has shown that certain genetic markers in the body can increase a person’s risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis fivefold.
Seeing a physical therapist at Delta/Fillmore Physical Therapy and Sports Medicine is a good first step if you are not sure who to see for a diagnosis. They will conduct a physical examination to check for red or warm joints, fluid in the joint region, and decreased range of motion.
If you experience very severe symptoms, physical therapists at Delta/Fillmore Physical Therapy and Sports Medicine will refer you to a rheumatologist for faster diagnosis and treatment.
To determine the kind of arthritis that you have, your doctor will have to analyze your joint fluids and blood. Other important diagnostic tests include blood tests for rheumatoid factor, anti-cyclic citrullinated peptide, and antinuclear antibody.
Physical therapists at Delta/Fillmore Physical Therapy and Sports Medicine will also use imaging diagnostics such as CT scans, MRI, and X-ray to create an image of your cartilage and bones. This is done to rule out other factors that may cause similar symptoms, like bone spurs for example.
TREATMENT FOR ARTHRITIS
The goal of treatment is to ease your pain and prevent further damage to your joints. Treatment techniques include:
- Medications such as analgesics, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, capsaicin creams or menthol, and immunosuppressant
- Surgery in severe cases
- Physical therapy
Physical therapy at Delta /Fillmore Physical Therapy and Sports Medicine involves exercises that give strength to the muscles surrounding the affected joint. Physical therapy is a very important component of arthritis treatment.
They will create an exercise plan to improve your strength, balance, coordination, and flexibility so that you can perform your physical functions well enough.
- They will teach you the right body mechanics and posture that will help improve function and relieve pain.
- You will be taught how to use canes, walkers, and other assistive devices.
- They will recommend various treatment options, such as splints and braces for joint support, cold and hot therapy to ease stiffness and joint pain, and shoe inserts for stress relief on your lower extremities.
WHAT’S THE PROGNOSIS FOR ARTHRITIS PATIENTS?
Arthritis does not have any cure. However, symptoms can improve with the right treatment.
Physical therapists at Delta /Fillmore Physical Therapy and Sports Medicine will recommend the right treatment for you and also suggest lifestyle modifications to help with the management of your condition.