Every October 12th marks World Arthritis Day, a campaign to raise awareness for people with rheumatic and musculoskeletal conditions across the globe. There are many forms of arthritis, each with their own features and ways they affect the body. ‘Arthritis’ is an umbrella term used to describe any condition that affects the joints of the body and is derived from ‘arth’ meaning joint, and ‘itis’ meaning inflammation. Something a lot of people do not realise is there are over 100 different types of arthritis.
Here’s a quick-fire guide to two of the most common types of arthritis… Osteoarthritis (OA) and Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA). These conditions are often mistaken for each other in the general population but are two very different conditions.
OA is a chronic, progressive condition that commonly affects the spine, hands, hips, knees, and ankles. Its main feature is the breakdown of the cartilage that lines the ends of bones in a joint. The underlying bone and surrounding muscles, ligaments and tendons also become affected and gradually degenerate over time. This condition is often referred to as ‘wear and tear’ of a joint, but more accurately it is result of the body trying to constantly repair itself due to excessive strains being placed on the joints due to poor stability and movement of the body.
Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)
RA is a chronic, autoimmune disease that commonly affects the hands, feet (i.e. small joints) and spine. This condition is driven by the body’s immune system attacking its own tissues. This leads to widespread and permanent degeneration and destruction of the joint tissues, and a characteristic deformity of joints, particularly those of the fingers and toes. RA is a body-wide condition that also affects the nerves and organs of the body, including the heart, lungs and eyes.
Who does it affect?
OA can affect people of all ages but is more common in those aged 45 years and over, and is most common in people who are 75 years and above. People who are overweight and obese are more likely to develop this condition, and there is more chance of having this problem if there is a family history. Injury and repetitive day-to-day movements are also contributing factors.
RA is also most common in those aged 75 and up. The onset of this condition usually occurs anywhere between the ages of 35-65. There is a strong genetic link with this disease, so if there is history in your family, there is a higher chance that you will also develop this condition.
Both conditions affect women more than men.
Signs & symptoms
Both OA and RA share the following joint symptoms:
- Inflammation and pain
- Loss of function
There are some differences in presentation though. Whereas OA usually affects joints on one side of the body, RA commonly affects both sides at the same time. OA is also more likely to affect the larger joints like the hip and knee, whereas RA most commonly affects the small joints of the hands and feet.
As already discussed, RA also affects other systems of the body, so you are more likely to experience symptoms relating to the nerves, heart, lungs (and other organs) and eyes with this condition.
As it stands there is no cure for either condition. There are treatments for both conditions which help to manage and slow the progression of symptoms.
OA is best helped by leading a healthy lifestyle, keeping your weight in check, moving regularly and well, and staying in touch with your osteopath on a regular basis 😉. Seriously, osteopathic treatment is a safe and effective way of managing joint pain relating to OA, so we highly recommend coming in for a consultation so we can put a plan in place and help you manage the condition going forward. You don’t have to do this alone! We can also help to advise on the use of movement aids, including the use of walking sticks, frames, braces and orthotics.
If you have been diagnosed with RA, it is likely you will be under the care of a rheumatologist who will help you to manage your condition medically alongside your GP. RA also requires you to stay flexible and strong, so exercise is an important part of your treatment. Osteopaths can also help people with RA. We can work with you to ensure your joints move well so you can retain function into your later years.
Do you have a diagnosis of arthritis? We are your people! Call us today on +61 430 062 099 to book your consultation.