While there are several types of arthritis, Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis are perhaps the most well-known. In this blog, I’d like to focus on osteoarthritis and explain in detail what it is, what causes it and what can be done to help alleviate the pain associated with it.
What is Osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis can cause joints to feel stiff and painful, resulting in reduced physical function. It is more common in older people but younger people can also be affected, especially if there has been a previous injury to a joint. Nearly every joint in the body can be affected by osteoarthritis but the most common places tend to be the knees, hips, fingers, lower back and neck.
You may have heard someone referring to osteoarthritis as “wear and tear” arthritis in the past. This is because many people assume that the joints gradually wear out over time and that arthritis is an inevitable consequence of getting older. This is not necessarily true and osteoarthritis is much more complicated than this. What is true is that the risk of getting osteoarthritis increases as we get older, but it is certainly not inevitable.
What causes Osteoarthritis?
In a normal joint, the two bones are connected and supported by ligaments and will be surrounded by tendons and muscles which help move the joint. There is a small amount of synovial fluid inside each joint, which lubricates the joint and helps it to move. These synovial joints will also have cartilage, which acts as a shock absorber.
In a joint with osteoarthritis, the cartilage will be thinning and there may be increased amounts of fluid inside the joint. You may also have an over growth of bone from the sides of the joint. This can cause pain, swelling and reduced physical activity.
The following factors are also important to consider;
- Lifestyle – there is a greater risk of getting osteoarthritis if you are overweight, due to the extra strain on the weight-bearing joints, such as the hips and knees
- Gender – certain types of arthritis are more prevalent in men and others are more common in women
- Age – osteoarthritis is predominantly a problem in later life, but other types of arthritis such as ankylosing spondylitis and rheumatoid arthritis may start in young adults
- Injury – previous damage or injury to a joint can lead to osteoarthritis later in life
- Infections – some viral and other infections can trigger certain types of arthritis
- Genetics – Some types of arthritis can run in families, such as osteoarthritis of the fingers and rheumatoid arthritis
What can be done to help alleviate the pain?
This may seem difficult when you are in a lot of pain, but it has been proven that daily exercise can make a big difference to an arthritis sufferer’s quality of life. Not only is it good for strengthening the muscles around the affected joint, but it will also help increase, or at least maintain, mobility.
Improve your sleeping pattern and position
A lack of sleep through having a poor sleeping pattern and position is a regular complaint we hear from individuals with chronic pain. Lack of sleep can lead to increased stress levels and inflammatory hormones, which will make the pain worse. Have a look at our blog Finding the Perfect Sleeping Pattern for some tips.
Find a way to relax and to control your breathing
With arthritis, the muscles can become tense and painful to move so it is important to learn how to relax to release muscle tension in the body. This increased tension can also cause us to have shallow breathing. It is important to learn to breathe deeply and from your diaphragm, as this will help you to ‘go with the pain’ and to be more in control, which lessens the fear of pain. There are lots of good books and articles online or in your local library, which will give you greats insights into relaxation and meditation techniques.
Consider physical therapy
Osteopathy has been proven to be effective at providing pain relief from arthritis. The techniques that work well are soft tissue work and gentle massage, which helps relax the muscles and relieves tension. Medical acupuncture is another technique that we use at Nolan Osteopathy to treat osteoarthritis, which has proven to be very effective for our patients.
I hope you found this information interesting and educational. If you have any questions about the above, please don’t hesitate to get in touch and we will be happy to help in any way we can.