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Dec 2021

What Is Arthritis?

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Vital facts you have to know about arthritis

Arthritis is the swelling and tenderness that develops in one or more joints. The main symptoms usually are stiffness of the joint as well as pain in the joint which typically gets worse as we age. While there are many forms of arthritis I will concentrate on the two that are most common and the ones that we typically see with patients in our facility. 

Rheumatoid Arthritis and Osteoartritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is a disease where the immune system attacks its own joints beginning with the lining of the joints. This lining becomes inflamed and swollen and can eventually destroy the cartilage and bone within the joint. Rheumatoid arthritis can progress slowly usually beginning by affecting the smaller joints like the fingers and toes. As Rheumatoid arthritis progresses further symptoms can spread to the knees, ankles and elbows and in some cases may affect both sides. 

Osteoarthritis causes cartilage to break down. Cartilage is the hard tissue that covers the ends of bones where they form a joint. Eventually the osteoarthritis causes changes in the bones and the continued deterioration of the connective tissues that attaché muscles to bone which hold the joints together. If the cartilage in the joint becomes severely damaged the lining of the joint may become inflamed and swollen. Osteoarthritis is a chronic system condition that is known as a wear/tear syndrome and as you age the constant wear and tear tends to wear the joints of the hips and knees. 


Arthritis Symptoms

The most common signs and symptoms of arthritis involve the joints. Depending on the type of arthritis, signs and symptoms may include:

  • Pain in the joint and surrounding areas
  • Stiffness in the joint
  • Swelling and redness around the joints
  • Decreased range of motion
  • Tender warm swollen joints
  • Morning stiffness that may last hours
  • Nodules under the skin that may move and can range from pea size to as large as a walnut
  • Fatigue fever and weight loss
  • Osteoarthritis mainly affects the knees and hips
  • Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis and can affect up to 1 in 10 Canadians.

Risk factors of having Arthritis may include:

  • Some types of arthritis run in families so you may be more likely to develop arthritis if your parents or siblings have the disorder.
  • The risk of arthritis such as Rheumatoid Arthritis and Osteoarthritis tend to increase as we age.
  • Women are more likely than men to develop Rheumatoid Arthritis, while men are more likely than woman to develop gout which is another form of arthritis.
  • If you have suffered a joint injury you may be more likely to develop arthritis in that joint.
  • Carrying excess pounds can put stress on joints particularly your hips knees and spine. People with obesity have a higher risk of developing arthritis. 

Severe arthritis when affecting the hands or arms can make tasks of daily living difficult. Having arthritis in weight bearing joints such as the hips and knees can make walking uncomfortable and painful. Since arthritis does not presently have a cure, the main goal is to reduce the symptoms associated and improving the quality of life. 

Treatment of Symptoms associated with Arthritis

Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis currently have no cures. Treatment for Rheumatoid arthritis would focus on controlling the symptoms and preventing any further joint damage. The main focus on treatment of Osteoarthritis would focus on relieving the symptoms and delaying/avoiding any further joint dysfunction. If you are obese or overweight losing weight may improve and lower the symptoms associated.

Arthritis tips for Winter Weather

For those that have Osteoarthritis or Rheumatoid Arthritis the changing weather can also create noticeable changes. Studies have shown that lower temperatures and damp weather such as snow or rain are associated with increased joint pains. Many individuals say they can tell when the weather is changing because their joint pains increase. If you loathe the winter months then try these tips for relief during these upcoming cold damp weather. 

  • Try starting your day with some warmth with a heating pad or blanket. Taking a warm bath and shower can help increase your joints mobility and decrease pain before you go about your daily activities. 
  • Try to stay moving but also pain free. If activities are painful then stop the activity. Moving about with low impact exercises can help during the winter months such as walks (dress warm) or walk in a mall. Riding a stationary bike or swim in a warm pool can also help.
  • Before braving the outdoors try to dress appropriately and in layers. Any joints that you suffer arthritis should be covered well. 
  • If the weather is cold and icy perhaps asking someone to help clear the windshield of your car. As well have someone help to shovel the snow. Activities such as cleaning the windshield and shovelling the snow may be tough on joints as well as becoming more painful in the cold weather.
  • Keep your hands and feet warm with good footwear as well as gloves or mittens.
  • Lastly try to prevent falls from happening by having the appropriate footwear that has traction. Try to avoid any slick surfaces!

For additional information or any questions about Arthritis and the treatment of arthritis please contact us at 905-273-5433 or visit our website at www.dynamicphysiotherapy.ca and send us a message. 

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