Wednesday, May 27, 2015

An Introduction to Osteoarthritis

By:  Dr. John A. Papa, DC, FCCPOR(C)
 
Millions of Canadians suffer from osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis.  Osteoarthritis accounts for more trouble with climbing stairs and walking than any other disease, and is the most common reason for total hip and knee replacement surgeries. This article provides a review of the current scientific understanding of osteoarthritis, including common symptoms, risk factors/causes, and natural management strategies.
 
It is important to first understand what osteoarthritis is. Many joints in our body have smooth cartilage surfaces that glide against each other, which allow two or more opposing bones to move freely and perform a specific set of movement(s).  A joint becomes arthritic when there is wearing down of these cartilage surfaces, and a change in the composition of the bone underneath the cartilage occurs.  Soft tissue structures in and around the joint are also affected.  An arthritic joint does not mechanically function like it is supposed to.  This may result in a number of symptoms including:  muscle tightness and weakness, joint pain and stiffness, decreased ranges of motion, instability and creaking in the joints, swelling, inflammation, joint thickening (i.e. finger nodules, bunions), secondary movement patterns, and physical de-conditioning.  Weight-bearing joints such as the hips and knees are most commonly affected, but osteoarthritis can affect any area of the body, including the hands, neck, and low back.
 
Osteoarthritis risk factors/causes are typically multi-factorial, meaning that there is usually no single cause, but rather a combination of several different factors.  The more risk factors an individual has, the greater chance they have of developing osteoarthritis.  These risk factors/causes may include but are not limited to: advancing age, genetic predisposition, mechanical overload from occupational and recreational activities, direct joint injury, lack of exercise, and being overweight or obese.
 
There are several natural strategies that may be employed in the management of osteoarthritis.  These may include proper diet and nutrition to help control weight and decrease inflammation, ice and heat therapy, and supplementation with glucosamine sulphate, omega-3 fatty acids, and natural anti-inflammatory agents.
 
Treatment from Regulated Health Professionals who utilize manual mobilization therapies, soft tissue therapy, electrotherapy, acupuncture, exercise and rehabilitation strategies can also significantly help to decrease pain by restoring normal muscle and joint motion, and promote healing of arthritic or injured areas.  Exercise has been shown to be particularly helpful and effective as it increases an individuals functional capacity to withstand occupational, recreational, and everyday stresses to the body more efficiently.  This minimizes the risk of joint injury and subsequent disability.  Join us next month when we take a closer look at the specific role of exercise in the management of osteoarthritis.
 
This article is a basic summary for educational purposes only.  It is not intended, and should not be considered, as a replacement for consultation, diagnosis or treatment by a duly licensed health practitioner.