One of the most widely misunderstood conditions among patients is arthritis. When some people hear this word they envisage a future with crippled and twisted joints. However "arthritis" is a very general word that encompasses many different conditions from the benign to the severe. For our purposes we will limit the discussion to the most common forms of arthritis.
By far the most common form of arthritis has many names, osteoarthitis, degenerative arthritis, degenerative joint disease (DJD), and spondylosis if it is in the spine. Basically the condition is due to the wearing out of the cartilage that lines the joint surfaces and it found not only in humans but also in all mammals. When joint cartilage is damaged, the sensitive bone tissue that is usually protected by the cartilage, becomes stressed causing degenerative changes in the joint. Sometimes the bone around the joint will proliferate and make osteophytes or what are more commonly called bone spurs. These spurs can cause painful irritation to other tissues around the joint thus complicating the already hurtful condition.
The most common areas of the body that develop degenerative joints are in the spine particularly in the lower neck and lower back, the knees, the hips and the fingers. Everyone will experience DJD at one point in their lives though things such as previous trauma, ones occupation, activities, weight, diet, and heredity influence the degree of the condition and its onset.
The symptoms of DJD always involve some degree of pain and or stiffness in the body part involved. If the weight bearing joints such as the hips or knees are involved, ones mobility can be affected especially in the more advanced stages of the condition. In some cases if the joint is sufficiently worn and the person can no longer walk without severe pain, the joints are surgically replaced with synthetic devices. Of course, one should attempt to manage their condition early on in one's life to avoid the need for surgery.
The best management of DJD is of course prevention and involves taking care of one's joints at an early age :
One should always make sure that even when young all injuries to joints are properly managed to insure proper healing to avoid future disability
People involved in occupations that require standing or walking should wear proper shoes that provide good support and shock absorption
Excess body weight can cause increase stress upon the weight bearing joints of the body
Avoid kneeling on hard surfaces to do housework as this can put strain on the sensitive structures of the knee
Eat a diet high in fruits and vegetables as they contain natural vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants which are essential for the health of the joints as well as the rest of the body
Recently there has been some studies that show that the nutritional supplement Glucosamine can help with DJD and can possible help rebuild joint cartilage. However it must be used over a long-term period and does not work in all conditions.
Chiropractic adjustments are a safe & effective treatment for spondylosis and can help restore proper mobility and function to the spinal joints. Other treatments such as joint mobilization, massage, ultrasound, hot and cold and electrotherapy modalities are also helpful in the care of painful and stiff joints. Sometimes a brace is required to help stabilize the joint in order to alleviate pain. Exercises such as stretching, yoga, tai chi and other gentle mobilizing activities is also helpful to maintain arthritic joints.
An increased level of uric acid in the blood and the deposition of uric acid crystals in the joints cause gouty arthritis. The most common joints are the big toes, the knees, ankles and wrists and the condition and is often characterized by acute pain in swelling. Most people who develop gout are heretically predisposed though episodes are usually brought on by binge eating of the wrong foods, during dehydration or fasting or after a major surgery or illness. Foods that must be avoided contain a natural substance called Purines are metabolized in the liver to form uric acid. People with this condition cannot properly metabolize uric acid thus the buildup in the bloodstream and the subsequent joint problems The foods most associated with high purine content are: red meat especially organ meet, certain seafood, legumes, mushrooms and other foods as well. There are other dietary restrictions that must be followed including avoiding alcohol though a complete list is available at your doctor. Besides dietary considerations, gout is usually managed with medication that helps lower the uric acid in one's bloodstream.
Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammatory disease of systemic origin. The direct cause is not known but it is thought to be due to a problem with the immune system. The most common joints affected are the small joints of the hands and fingers, the feet, knees and shoulder though other areas of the body can be affected as well. The condition is usually associated with morning stiffness that is aggravated by motion. Often people complain of general malaise and fatigue and the disease in its more advanced forms can affect many of the other body systems. There are specific blood tests to help identify Rheumatoid arthritis that can be easily run by your doctor. Management includes medication, vitamin and diet therapy. Chiropractic adjustments, joint mobilization, modalities such as ultrasound, heat, electrotherapy and massage can also help with the pain and stiffness associated the condition.