We all have met “Arthur”, a.k.a. “Arthritis” at some point. We hear about him almost daily. We see the commercial advertisements for “arthritis sufferers;” we see and take over the counter medications to relieve “arthritis pain;” we hear people saying “my arthritis is worse in bad weather” and I could go on and on. Do you know what arthritis really is? You may have a pretty good idea, but from some conversations I have regularly with my patients, I know there are many, even those with Arthritis, who need some help with the definition.
Arthritis, in general, disables more people than any other disorder. There are two main types of Arthritis: Osteoarthritis (OA) and Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA). Most people who have been diagnosed with Arthritis have OA; this is the single most common joint disease. This form of Arthritis typically affects only a limited number of joints (most commonly the hip, knee and/or spine). It is usually caused by some type of traumatic injury or by “wear and tear.” It is more common with advancing age and it is estimated that about 85% of people over 60 have some degree of Arthritis. Typically, pain is felt as a deep ache and it gradually progresses as the joint slowly degenerates due to it’s inability to handle mechanical stresses (from excess weight, for example). Stiffness also is a main complaint of those with OA, especially after prolonged inactivity (sitting, sleeping, etc.). You may also hear “creaking or grinding” when the affected joint is moving.
Rheumatoid Arthritis differs greatly from Osteoarthritis. RA is a systemic inflammatory disease that affects only 1-2% of the adult population. The effects of RA generally begin in your 30s and 40s and continue to progress with advancing age. Although rare, children can also have RA (termed juvenile RA). A blood test that is positive for “rheumatoid factor” confirms about 80% of those with RA. RA tends to be present in multiple joints, especially the wrists, hands, fingers, feet and knees) on both sides of the body. Symptoms include warm, stiff and swollen joints, intense pain, especially after inactivity, and joint deformity in more advanced stages.
While this all sounds pretty grim, there is a lot that can be done to help alleviate the symptoms brought on by both OA and RA. Nothing can take away the damage that has already been done to the joint (except a total joint replacement), however, there are several ways to intervene and halt the progression of joint degeneration. Treatments are varied, but may include physical therapy (go figure!), exercise, medication, heat/ice, rest, assistive devices, orthotics/shoe inserts and surgery. It may seem confusing that both exercise and rest are listed. It is the careful balance of the two that makes each successful. If you rest your body too much, you will cause more harm over time and, conversely, if you exercise too much you will also be causing more harm by wearing out the joint faster. Therefor, it is most beneficial to have a professional instruct you in a safe, but effective treatment program.
Unfortunately, some people with arthritis come to me feeling defeated after having been told, “there is nothing you can do to change your arthritis.” It is my main purpose to educate you about the ways physical therapy can be helpful to you and, more importantly, how you can help yourselves. Whether you are young or old, it is not too early or too late to do something about the problems arthritis is causing you.
Conshohocken Physical Therapy is not an ordinary Physical Therapy clinic. We believe in changing your life. We are driven by the desire to make a positive impact, both personally and therapeutically, on every person who enters our office.
You will experience pain relief, improved motion and a greater quality of life. Our approach is friendly, evidence-based and innovative and our Doctors of Physical Therapy have the most specialized training in treating your body.
Learn more about Conshohocken Physical Therapy by visiting us online at www.conshypt.com.