As I got out of bed this morning, I looked outside to see another cool, rainy day. It's on days like this that my joints ache; especially in my back and my knees. I used to run, and over the years I have had knee problems. I decided to write a little bit about Arthritis. I've learned that it affects over 40 million people in the United States. Arthritis can be debilitating, but with proper care and treatment Arthritis can be defeated. Its important that you become aware as early as possible about its effects, and more importantly what can be done to prevent it.
The first question to ask is, what is Arthritis? The word means "joint inflammation." It is a group of conditions involving damage to the joints of the body. With Arthritis, an area in or around a joint becomes inflamed, causing pain, stiffness and sometimes difficulty moving. The inflammation can be caused by:
1. An autoimmune disease.
2. A broken bone or other such trauma.
3. General wear and tear on joints as we age
There are more than 100 types of Arthritis. The most common types are:1. Osteoarthritis: This is the most common type of Arthritis. It is often called degenerative arthritis, degenerative joint disease, or spinal decay when it is located in the cartilage surrounding the spinal cord. It occurs when cartilage covering the ends of bones gradually wears away. This occurs most often in weight bearing joints such as the knee and hip. It is also common in the hands and the spine.Without the protection of the cartilage, the bones begin to rub together and the resulting friction leads to pain and swelling.
2. Rheumatoid Arthritis: This is a long-lasting disease that can affect joints in any part of the body, but most commonly the hands, wrists and knees. With Rheumatoid Arthritis, the immune system mistakenly attacks itself and causes the joint lining to swell. The inflammation then spreads to surrounding tissues, and can eventually damage cartilage and bone.
3. Septic Arthritis: Septic arthritis is an inflammation of a joint due to a bacterial infection. Septic arthritis develops when bacteria spreads through the bloodstream to a joint. It may also occur when the joint is directly infected with bacteria by an injury or during surgery. The most common sites for this type of infection are the knee and hip.Most cases of acute septic arthritis are caused by organisms such as staphylococcus or streptococcus.
4. Psoriatic Arthritis. Psoriatic arthritis is a chronic disease which mainly affects the fingers and toes. It usually occurs in association with the skin disease called psoriasis. Patients who have inflammatory arthritis and psoriasis are diagnosed as having psoriatic arthritis. Psoriasis is a common skin condition that features patches of raised, red areas of skin inflammation with scaling. 10% of all people affected with psoriasis will develop joint inflammation.
Factors Which Can Increase the Risk of Arthritis
1. Age. The risk of developing Arthritis increases with age.
2. Gender. In general Arthritis occurs more frequently in women than in men.
3. Obesity. Being overweight puts extra stress on weight-bearing joints, increasing wear and tear.
4. Work Factors. Some jobs that require repetitive movements or heavy lifting can stress the joints and/or cause an injury which can lead to Arthritis, particularly Osteoarthritis.
5. Heredity. Research is continuing, but preliminary studies have shown a possible genetic role in developing the disease.
Some of the symptoms of Osteoarthritis are joint pain and progressive stiffness without noticeable swelling, chills, or fever. With Rheumatoid Arthritis there is painful swelling, tenderness, locking of the joints, and inflammation in the fingers, arms, legs and wrists. The symptoms will occur in the same joints on both sides of the body. Symptoms will be the most severe on awakening in the morning.
Things we Can do to Help with Arthritis
1. Achieve and maintain a healthy weight. Excess weight puts stress on your joints. Even losing 10 pounds can significantly lower your risks.
2. Muscle development. Keeping your muscles strong can help to protect and support your joints. This is especially true of your knees. The best exercises are low-impact exercises such as leg raises, wall sits and squats.
3. Exercise. A lack of joint mobility can lead to Arthritis. Low impact exercises such as Yoga and Tai Chi are best. Be sure to also begin adding stretching to your routines.
4. Use joint protecting devices and proper lifting techniques at work. Watch for injuries due to repetitive tasks as well as heavy lifting.
5. Proper Footwear. Proper footwear is important, especially for runners. Even if you walk make sure you have sneakers with flexible soles. It should be noted that high heeled shoes are very hard on joints.
6. Eat a healthy diet. A well-balanced, nutritious diet can help strengthen your bones and muscles. For Rheumatoid Arthritis some people have found some relief in anti-inflammatory diets in combination with supplements. This diet is high in certain fruits and vegetables along with Omega-3 fatty Acids found in cold water fish, walnuts, soy bean and canola oil and avocados.
The key to stopping arthritis is prevention. Contrary to popular belief, arthritis, though it is seen in older people is not age related. It is not a part of the normal aging process. It can be prevented if you are aware of what causes it and take the appropriate steps. If you already have Arthritis, there are many treatments today which have been able to slow or stop the progression of joint damage. Some of the treatments besides pain medication, include: regimens of heat, rest and exercise, physical therapy, and the controlled application of deep heat to soothe affected joints.