It used to be that arthritis was considered an inherent part of the ageing process, wear and tear, an unavoidable consequence of an active life and a signal from our bodies that it’s time to slow down.
Not so anymore!
And thank goodness because the more we learn about arthritis, the more we see just how much it really is within our control. Recent research evidence and clinical trials are showing that there is much more we can do than the traditional recommendation of rest and anti-inflammatory drugs.
What Is Arthritis?
The word “arthritis” basically means “joint inflammation” but arthritis takes many forms and most of these can be divided into two broad sub-types; degenerative and inflammatory.
DEGENERATIVE or OSTEOARTHRITIS is the commonest form of arthritis, usually thought of as ‘wear and tear’ and is usually localised to a specific site such as the hips, knees or spine. It most commonly effects older populations and frequently occurs in joint that have suffered previous trauma. Its classic features of pain, stiffness and restricted mobility are often eased and improved with skilled osteopathic treatment.
INFLAMMATORY arthritis is often used in reference to rheumatic diseases which include well over 100 conditions, including gout, fibromyalgia, psoriatic arthritis, and many more. Some of these diseases specifically target joints, some target several body systems which happen to include the joints and others still give lots of joint pain without any actual damage to the joints. It’s a tricky area to say the least!
Rheumatoid arthritis is also a rheumatic disease and it’s one of the more common ones, affecting about 1% of the population. Rheumatoid arthritis tends to have a primary focus of damage to the small joints of the hands and feet but can effect some of the larger joints like the elbows and ankles and in some people can even effect organs such as the heart. It often begins in middle age and is more common in the older population but it can also be a juvenile onset at a young age.
Osteopathy for people with arthritis is aimed to:
- Provide immediate relief from stiffness
- Reduce pain and swelling
- Promote range of joint movement
- Improve mobility
- Assist in rehabilitation
- Provide valuable education on how you can improve your quality of life through diet and nutritional support, posture, and exercise
Treatments may include:
Mobilisation and manipulation techniques are passive movements applied to a joint or soft tissue by the Osteopath in a specific manner to help restore full movement to a joint that is painful and restricted. Manual therapy is often useful in the chronic forms of arthritis and is often successful when other methods such as heat and exercises have given little or no relief.
Exercise is critical in successful arthritis management. It helps maintain healthy and strong muscles, joint mobility, flexibility, endurance, and helps control weight. Rest, on the other hand, helps to decrease active joint inflammation, pain, and fatigue. For best results, arthritis patients need a good balance between the two: more rest during the active phase of arthritis, and more exercise during remission.
Self-Management Individuals who participate in self-management programs notice decrease in joint pain and frequency of arthritis-related doctors’ visits, increases in physical activity and overall improvement in quality of life. You will be given positive advice related to your lifestyle and about how you use your body.
Diet You will also be given advice about your diet which can have a surprisingly significant impact on arthritis severity and progression. The relationship between gut health and inflammatory immune dysfunction has become undeniable over the last few years so caring for your joints frequently means caring for you gut too.