Types of Arthritis

Types of Arthritis. What type of arthritis do I have? 

So you’ve been told you’ve got arthritis, but what does that actually mean? Did you know that there’s more than just one type of arthritis and they all present with different signs and symptoms, have different causes, prevention and treatment methods? The word arthritis can be pretty scary, but it’s not all doom and gloom! Understanding your pain, the common aggravating factors and building a management plan is really important. You don’t have to live in pain for the rest of your life. 

Let’s delve into a couple of the more common types of arthritis; Osteoarthritis, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Ankylosing Spondylosis and Gout. 

Osteoarthritis 

Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common form of joint disease. It is often referred to as ‘wear and tear’ of a joint, which isn’t 100% accurate as it’s now thought to be as a result of the whole joint, which includes bone, cartilage, ligaments and muscles, working extra hard to repair itself. It may include inflammation of the tissue around the joint, damage to the cartilage, and bony spurs, also known as osteophytes. 

Osteoarthritis tends to affect the joints of the hips, knees, finger joints and the big toe. It is most common in people over the age of 40 but can occur at any age, also being common in people who have had joint injuries. 

Unfortunately there is currently no cure for OA, but the team at Beyond may help you create a treatment plan to guide you. 

Each individual is different, so symptoms tend to vary depending on the person and the joint that is affected. 

The most common symptoms; 

  • Pain and stiffness of the joints, usually worse with initial movement but improves as you move 
  • Intermittent swelling, often after periods of inactivity 
  • Clicking or reduced mobility of a joint
  • Joint deformity in the later stages 

Common causes; 

  • Overweight and obesity  
  • History of injury or trauma to the joint
  • Lifetime joint stress due to occupation or excessive physical activity
  • Family history of OA

Common treatment methods;

  • Improved diet to maintain healthy weight 
  • A tailored exercise program to improve the muscles and joint health 
  • Patient education about aggravating activities and making daily activities easier
  • Manual treatment; including soft tissue, dry needling, joint articulation, stretching
  • Surgery

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a common autoimmune disease that causes pain and swelling of the joints. In RA, the immune system targets the lining of the joints, causing inflammation and joint damage. Although its exact cause is unknown, a genetic link had been identified. 

The most commonly affected areas are the wrists, middle and index fingers, shoulders, elbows, hips, knees and upper neck joints. 

Diagnosis of RA is performed through blood test for inflammation, antibodies, anti-cyclic citrullinated peptide, RA factor as well as x-rays of the affected joints. 

As with OA, there is currently no cure for RA, but the team at Beyond may help you create a treatment plan to guide you. 

The most common symptoms; 

  • Pain, swelling and tenderness of joints
  • Morning joint stiffness 
  • Symmetrical pain; meaning that the pain occurs in the same joints on both sides of the body

Common treatment methods; 

  • Medication from your GP or rheumatologist may include; non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, corticosteroids, disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drug
  • Exercise prescription to maintain joint and muscle health 
  • Manual treatment including soft tissue, dry needling, joint articulation, stretching
  • Diet modification 
  • Patient education about aggravating activities and making daily activities easier

Ankylosing Spondylosis 

Ankylosing spondylitis (AS) is a condition that mainly affects the joints of the spine. Pain and stiffness can occur as the joint of the neck, back and pelvis become inflamed. Other joints, such as the hips and shoulders, and other areas of the body such as the eyes, skin, bowel and lungs, can also be involved. Symptoms of AS usually begin between the ages of 15 and 45 years.

The causes of AS are not fully understood although a link to family history has been identified. Specific inflammatory genes have also been associated with AS. 

There is currently no cure for AS, but the team at Beyond may help you create a treatment plan to help guide you. 

The most common symptoms; 

  • Pain and stiffness in the neck, buttocks or neck
  • Pain or stiffness that is relieved with exercises and worse after periods of rest
  • Morning pain 

Treatment methods; 

  • Manual treatment to help improve joint mobility, load and function of surrounding joints and muscles 
  • Tailored exercise program to maintain joint and muscle health 
  • Medication prescribed by a rheumatologist 
  • Diet modification 
  • Patient education

Gout 

Gout is a common and painful condition that affects the joints that usually come on very quickly, often overnight. Small crystals form in and around the joint, causing inflammation and swelling, and extreme pain. Gout normally affects one joint at a time, often the joint of the big toe. It is diagnosed by blood tests and the presence of urate crystals in uid in your joints. 

The most common symptoms; 

  • Red, swollen and painful joints that comes on quickly, often overnight 
  • Joints that are sore to touch

Causes; 

  • Overweight or obesity
  • High blood pressure or high cholesterol
  • Glucose intolerance
  • Use of diuretics
  • Increased alcohol consumption 

Treatment methods; 

  • Medication to lower the levels of uric acid in your blood
  • Reduced alcohol consumption 
  • Weight loss and diet modification

As you can see, the signs and symptoms of each type of arthritis varies but many of the treatment methods can be similar. Exercise is essential for joint and muscle health in every patient, especially those suffering with arthritis. Maintaining a healthy weight is also important as an increase in weight places added pressure on the joints. Manual treatment can help improve range of motion, optimise joint function and address biomechanical strain patterns. Every person is different, so management should be tailored to the individual.

It’s quite concerning that so many people put up with pain and discomfort from arthritis without knowing that it can be well managed with proper treatment and support. The team at Beyond see these conditions every day and know we can help you MOVE THROUGH LIFE. 

The Arthritis Australia website is a great resource to help you understand your arthritis. https://arthritisaustralia.com.au 

References

Arthritis Australia 2017, Types of Arthritis, Arthritis Australia, viewed 27 October 2019, https://arthritisaustralia.com.au 

ACSM. (2013). ACSM’s Resource Manual for Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription (7th ed.). New York: Lippincott, Williams and Wilkins

Can Exercise Help My Osteoarthritis
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