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MAKE IT A JOINT EFFORT – ARTHRITIS OVERVIEW
We all have those ooh, aah, ouch moments after a tough day at work or at the gym or playing any sport. A few niggles here and there are fine. The problem starts when these joint pains become an everyday affair and start affecting your work, livelihood and personal life. Once that happens, you know it’s time to visit an orthopedic doctor as you might be suffering from a medical condition called Arthritis.
Arthritis refers to inflammation of the joints, which results in pain and stiffness typically because of aging. And if you thought it’s just an age-related disease, here are some facts that put things in perspective:
- There are over 100 types of arthritis.
- Arthritis affects over 180 million people in India
- 49 percent of adults with heart disease have arthritis
- 47 percent of adults with diabetes have arthritis
ANATOMY OF A JOINT
Before we answer what causes arthritis, it is important to look at the anatomy of a joint.
A tissue that cushions the surface of a bone at a joint to decrease the friction between two bones caused by the movement within a joint.
The parts of your car need oiling to keep the engine running smoothly. The synovial membrane does the same job by secreting a sticky synovial fluid that lubricates the joints and keeps them in prime condition.
These are connective and elastic tissues that help various bones to connect and form a network to perform any movement of the joint
Joints cannot work in isolation until they are not connected to any muscle group. That’s exactly what these connective tissues do as they attach themselves to each side of a joint for syncing the movement of the muscle and joint.
SO WHAT CAUSES ARTHRITIS?
There are plenty of factors for Arthritis but here are the major ones:
- Wear and tear of the joints as you age
- An injury to the joints
- An auto-immune disorder can attack various joints and bones
- Family history and genetic factors
- Certain occupations or demanding job can accelerate
- Obese people are known to be more prone to arthritis
- Lifestyle habits such as smoking can also cause arthritis
What are the major types of arthritis?
Although there 100 types of arthritis, the majority of them suffer from two major types
Due to age, the cartilage in our bodies begins to wear off. This creates friction between the bones and leads to pain in your fingers, knees, or hips. Certain sports injuries to the joints can aggravate the entire process so consult a doctor at the earliest.
Sometimes the autoimmune system gets falsely triggered and starts producing antibodies, which attack various joints and tissues of the body. This situation can lead to inflammation and damage to the joints. Some more symptoms of Rheumatoid arthritis would be:
- Inflammation of various organs
- Weight loss
HOW DO WE DIAGNOSE ARTHRITIS?
There is a combination of techniques to determine the length and breadth of the problem. These are
Certain blood tests can be helpful in diagnosing various kinds of the disease especially Rheumatoid Arthritis
These tests help in scanning and finding out the exact root of the problem.
X-rays are the most basic but yet one of the most powerful imaging tool to determine the cartilage damage, bone loss, and spurs. Even, if they can’t figure out the onset of Arthritis, one can stay updated on the progress report of the disease
COMPUTERIZED TOMOGRAPHY (CT)
These scanners are able to capture the various angles of a joint to have a 360-degree view of the problem. They can visualize both bone and the surrounding soft tissues.
MAGNETIC RESONANCE IMAGING (MRI)
They are probably the most powerful imaging tool, which can read and pick out the minutest details of soft tissues, cartilage, ligaments, and tendons. These might be missed out with other tests but not with the MRI.
Using high-frequency sound waves, this technology images tissues, cartilage, and fluid-containing structures.
WHAT’S THE CURE FOR ARTHRITIS?
Arthritis is a part and parcel of life, which happens with age. However, making some lifestyle improvements can cut down your symptoms. Here are some of them:
Yes, flexing those joints and moving your body can actually improve your condition as they strengthen your muscles and also increase flexibility, which eases the pain. Low-impact exercises like swimming improve overall strength and movement of the joints. Yoga is another great solution for those struggling with arthritis.
MEDICATION IS ONLY A SHORT-TERM SOLUTION
Though there are plenty of over-the-counter painkillers available, this is not a long-term solution simply because of the negative side effects.
LOSE POUNDS, GAIN FLEXIBILITY
Obesity is a major reason for osteoporosis in adults as the extra weight can add more pressure to your joints. This means quicker wear and tear of the musculoskeletal system. A simple brisk walk every day along with a balanced diet will do a world of good to those who are overweight.
PHYSICAL THERAPY, STRESS-FREE MENTALLY
Physical therapy which involves new-age medical gadgets, technology like Ultrasound and transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation have shown significant pain reduction. Other techniques like acupuncture have also shown to reduce muscle spasm and healing of certain joints.
LAST BUT NOT THE LEAST SURGERY
This should be last on your mind unless and until other techniques or procedures have failed. Thankfully, advanced techniques such as joint replacement surgery is now a possibility and can ease the pain of the patient significantly.