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Arthritic Pain

What is arthritic pain?

Arthritic pain is what you experience when you have arthritis in your joint(s). Arthritis is a common condition that causes pain and inflammation within a joint. In the UK, around 10 million people have arthritis. There are three main types of arthritis which can cause arthritic pain: Osteoarthritis, Rheumatoid Arthritis and Juvenile Arthritis (affecting children and teenagers).

IMAGE - Diagram of common types of arthritis

‘Arth’ is joint and ‘itis’ is inflammation.

If you suffer from chronic pain in your neck, low back, hip, or knee and notice that these areas are particularly stiff in the morning, you may be suffering from a form of arthritis and suffering arthritic pain.  It is a pain that can affect you walking, and climbing the stairs may be difficult.  You may find getting in and out of chairs or in and out of the car a struggle, and putting socks and shoes on can become a challenge.

Osteopaths spend a vast amount of time dealing with pain and suffering caused by arthritis/arthritic pain.  Many people mistakenly assume that they must learn to live with their symptoms. In many cases, osteopaths are able to help considerably. Pain relief and lifestyle management improve the quality of life for arthritis sufferers.

Arthritis may be hereditary but is generally caused by poor posture, heavy manual work and previous injury. The condition affects people of all ages including children. 

Myth #1: Arthritis is just minor aches and pains associated with getting older.
Fact: Arthritis is actually a complex family of musculoskeletal disorders consisting of more than 100 different diseases or conditions that can affect people of all ages, races and genders.

  •  Arthritis is not just a disease of old age. Two-thirds of people with arthritis are under the age of 65, including children.

Arthritis can take many forms, but three of the common diseases that make up arthritis are:

  • Osteoarthritis (OA), the most common form of arthritis, is a progressive degenerative joint disease characterized by the breakdown of joint cartilage associated with risk factors, such as overweight/obesity, history of joint injury and age.
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA), a systemic disease characterized by the inflammation of the membranes lining the joint, which causes pain, stiffness, warmth, swelling and sometimes severe joint damage.
  • Juvenile Arthritis (JA) is an umbrella term used to describe the many autoimmune and inflammatory conditions that can develop in children ages 16 and younger.

Myth #2: Arthritis is not a serious health problem.
Fact: Arthritis places a growing burden on the health care and economic systems in this country.

  • Over half a million people receive Disability Living Allowance (DLA) as a result of arthritis (representing more than 18% of all DLA claimants)
  • Arthritis is the leading cause of disability in the United Kingdom.
  • More than 10 million adults consult their GP each year with arthritis and related conditions.  This becomes more common with age with 1 in 10 people aged 15-24 seeking a GP consultation each year with a musculoskeletal problem rising to 1 in 3 people over 75 seeking a consultation
  • Arthritis is actually a more frequent cause of activity limitations than heart disease, cancer or diabetes.

Myth #3: People with arthritis should avoid exercising.
Fact: Exercise is a valuable tool in the fight against arthritis.

  • There is strong evidence indicating that both endurance and resistance types of exercise provide considerable disease-specific benefits for people with osteoarthritis (OA) and rheumatic conditions.
  • A growing body of research indicates that exercise, weight management and the avoidance of joint injury can go a long way in helping to prevent OA.
  • Every one pound of weight loss results in four pounds of pressure taken off each knee.

Want to learn more about Arthritic Pain?
We look in more details below at the symptomscauses and how osteopathy can help.

Symptoms of arthritic pain

There are many different symptoms of arthritis and the symptoms you experience will vary depending on the type of arthritis you have. The severity of the disease will also vary from person to person.  However, common arthritic symptoms include:

  • joint pain, tenderness and stiffness
  • inflammation in and around the joints
  • restricted movement of the joints
  • swelling, warmth and redness of the skin over the affected joint
  • weakness and muscle wasting
  • neck, low back, hip/knee pain
  • referred muscle spasm

Causes of arthritic pain

There are many different types/causes of arthritis that cause a wide range of symptoms. They are classified as Inflammatory or Degenerative.  Three of the most common are:

Other types of arthritis include:

  • Ankylosing Apondylitis – a long-term condition that affects the bones, muscles, and ligaments of the spine
  • Cervical Spondylitis – also known as degenerative osteoarthritis, cervical spondylitis affects the joints and bones in the neck
  • Fibromyalgia – a condition that causes pain in the body’s muscles, ligaments and tendons
  • Lupus – a long-term condition that causes inflammation in the body’s tissues
  • Gout – a type of arthritis that usually affects the big toe, but can also develop in any joint in the body
  • Psoriatic Arthritis – joint inflammation that affects people with the skin condition, psoriasis
  • Reactive Arthritis – can cause inflammation of the joints, eyes, and urethra (the tube through which urine passes that runs from the bladder through the penis in men or the vulva in women)
  • Secondary Arthritis – a type of arthritis that can develop after a joint injury; it sometimes occurs many years after the injury
  • Polymyalgia Rheumatica – a condition where the immune system attacks healthy tissue, causing muscle pain, stiffness and joint inflammation

Risk factors for arthritis include:

  • Family history. Some types of arthritis run in families, so you may be more likely to develop arthritis if your parents or siblings have the disorder. Your genes can make you more susceptible to environmental factors that may trigger arthritis.
  • Age. The risk of many types of arthritis — including osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and gout — increases with age.
  • Your sex. Women are more likely than are men to develop rheumatoid arthritis, while most of the people who have gout are men.
  • Previous joint injury. People who have injured a joint, perhaps while playing a sport, are more likely to eventually develop arthritis in that joint.
  • Obesity. Carrying excess pounds puts stress on joints, particularly your knees, hips and spine. Obese people have a higher risk of developing arthritis.

How will osteopathy help?

Whilst arthritis cannot be ‘cured’ by osteopathy, the arthritic pain and symptoms can be significantly reduced.

Many arthritis sufferers are told that ‘nothing can be done, you just have to live with it’ or ‘pain killers and anti-inflammatory drugs are the only treatment available’. Osteopathy cannot reverse the damage already done to the joints but treatment can certainly ease the pain, reduce swelling, reduce the stiffness and restore some joint mobility. As a result of this there is often less reliance on medication and consequently less problems with the inevitable side effects of the drugs, such as gastritis.

Management focuses on eliminating symptoms through early diagnosis and improving lifestyle to prevent further degeneration.  Arthritis can be detected by a routine osteopathic assessment and confirmed by x-rays, blood tests or even MRIs.

Osteopathic treatment involves gentle manual osteopathic techniques on joints, muscles and ligaments. This may involve gentle stretching, mobility, and traction techniques. Exercises to do at home may also be prescribed to improve joint function and to reduce muscle spasm. Exercise in warm water or salt baths may also be recommended.

Treatment aims to get the best out of the affected areas by improving the mobility of arthritic joints as far as possible. Associated joints and tissues may also require treatment to ensure that they are functioning well enough to take the extra strain and compensate for the damaged joint(s) so maintaining good overall mobility.

In chronic cases it may not be the actual arthritic joint(s) that causes most of the pain. The body often naturally tries to protect the joint by splinting it with muscle spasm and it is the muscles and soft tissues that are the source of the aches and pains. Osteopathic treatment can reduce this excessive muscle tension, ease the pain and improve movement.

Often treatment can help with pain management and enable a patient to function at a better level. It can also be extremely useful in maintaining joint and muscle function both pre and post- surgically, for example with knee and hip joint replacements. Symptoms of spondylosis in the neck and low back also respond well to gentle osteopathic techniques such as traction, articulation and soft-tissue massage.

Self-care is important when living well with arthritis.  You need to stay physically active which keeps the joints flexible and the muscles strong, thereby protecting the joints.  Managing your weight, eating a nutritious diet and getting a good balance of rest and activity each day are also important.

At Shefford Osteopathic Clinic we aim to:

  • Provide immediate relief from symptoms
  • Reduce pain and swelling
  • Promote range of joint movement
  • Improve mobility
  • Assist in rehabilitation after surgery such as hip  and knee replacement
  • Educate on how you can improve your quality of life through diet and nutritional support, posture, and exercise.
  • Give positive advice related to your lifestyle, ideas on activities and how to use your body. Age is no barrier and gentle exercises tailored and prescribed to your needs will help maintain good, pain-free movement

Here is a link to an article: Osteopathic treatment considerations for rheumatic diseases by Melicien A Tettambel, DO

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