What is Arthritis ?
Osteoarthritis Symptoms & Treatment
Arthritis means literally inflammation of the joint and affects around 8 million people in the UK. It usually affects the moveable or more mobile joints of the body known as the synovial joints, eg hip, knee, hand and small joints of the spine.
Did you know that whales have also been found to have evidence of osteoarthritis in there joints!
Normally these joints are covered in cartilage and are lubricated by synovial fluid which nourishes and repairs the joint cartilage if injured. Ligaments hold the joint together and the muscles on top of the ligaments allow and control the movements of the joints.
What is OsteoArthritis:
Osteoarthritis is wear and tear of the joint surface. The bones grind against each other and cause roughening of the cartilage. If the cartilage wears completely then eventually the grinding of the bone surfaces changes the shape of the bone.
This can happen at any time for a number of reasons.
Firstly, wear and tear for some, is a part of the normal ageing process, but some people are affected more than others.
Secondly, it can occur at a joint when there has been some sort of injury earlier in life which disturbs the normal mechanics of the joint, e.g through playing sport, or from ones occupation, poor posture or being overweight.
Once the mechanics of the joint have been disturbed the joint does not move optimally, the lubricating synovial fluid does not lubricate the joint surfaces adequately and the muscles that would normally control movement have to work harder to maintain joint movement. With time the muscle fatigues and can no longer control healthy joint movement and the joint surfaces come into constant contact with each other and then a grinding and roughening process begins. Slowly the cartilage roughens and loses its function in protecting the bone, the cartilage thins and eventually wears away exposing the bone beneath. Once the cartilage covering has thinned the bone can wear very quickly causing damage to the bone, it changes in shape and osteophytes, i.e small boney projections grow to try and stabilise the joint. The muscles find they have to work much harder to control and move the joint which results in very tight painful spasmed muscles.
Symptoms of OsteoArthritis:
The first symptoms of osteoarthritis are stiffness and/or pain around the joint especially first thing in the morning, accompanied by restricted movement. The joint being painful or stiff when moved does not encourage the individual to move it. This makes the synovial fluid to thicken and not circulate around the joint surface adequately, therefore stopping nourishment of the cartilage and bone.
There may be swelling, sometimes it may feel warm due to the inflammatory response of the body trying to heal the joint.
A small amount of activity usually helps to loosen the joint by stretching the muscles and easing the symptoms of stiffness and pain and ultimately increasing the joint mobility. But if the activity is prolonged the muscle fatigues and the joint starts to get stiff and progressively more painful, it may even swell at this point.
For example, too much gardening, housework, ironing, washing windows, washing cars, carrying heavy shopping, bending and lifting may make things sore and inflamed, even if slightly.
Not surprisingly, sedentary activities such sitting using computer, prolonged driving, knitting, typing, writing, holding the newspaper, watching the t.v, can make the symptoms worse, as static postures with small repetitive movements stops the synovial fluid from circulating and feeding the cartilage.