It is well recognised that most of us will get the wear-and-tear type of arthritis called osteoarthritis (OA), which is also known as degenerative arthritis or degenerative joint disease, at some point in our lives.
OA is damage to the joints - including cartilage and the bone next to it. Often, it causes no pain at all, but you merely notice a bit of stiffness - especially in the mornings or after a period of inactivity.
So what is the difference between osteoarthritis and spondylitis? Nothing! They are the same thing; spondylitis is simply a term for osteoarthritis in the spine.
There are two major misunderstandings when it comes to OA:
- People are often told they have it when they don't; in actual fact, they have simple joint dysfunction, which can be easily treated with chiropractic care
- If it is osteoarthritis, people are almost always under the impression that they simply have to live with it, which they don't!
How do you know if it is osteoarthritis or not?
There are no laboratory or pathological tests to diagnose arthritis, but a diagnosis can often be made with reasonable certainty by a clinical examination.
During your initial consultation, your practitioner will perform various types of examinations and tests which will enable them to determine whether or not it is osteoarthritis.
If they deem it necessary, they will be able to refer you for an x-ray to confirm their findings.
What will my pain be like if I have osteoarthritis?
Symptoms of OA may include joint pain, tenderness, stiffness, creaking, locking of the joints and sometimes local inflammation (swelling and warmth); however, these problems tend to improve with gentle activity.
Genetics or body chemistry are among the various possible causes of OA, which may cause some damage of the cartilage in the joints. The body then tries to heal this trauma and replace the damaged cells, but the processes involved in doing this can actually accelerate it.
If the cartilage is damaged enough, the bone can become exposed, which leads to extra bony growth around the joints - resulting in the joints becoming larger and more knobbly. This is often seen in the hands and is also very noticeable in the knee.
How can we help?
While nothing can reverse the development of OA, our practitioners can manage your symptoms and maximise the function of your unaffected joints to alleviate the pressure on the osteoarthritic joints.
You will be involved in any decisions about your care, and your practitioner will give you advice on appropriate pain management strategies.
Your treatment is likely to be a package of care that may include:
- Expert advice
- Manual therapies (including manipulation, mobilisation and soft tissue work)
- Dry needling/medical acupuncture
- Tailored exercise approaches
- Psychologically informed care
You can also expect to receive advice on the appropriateness of undertaking exercises, being physically active and continuing normal daily activities as far as possible, as well as remaining in work, graded return and fit notes.
How can I avoid osteoarthritis?
Arthritis is not inevitable, and there are many people in their nineties who do not suffer from OA-related pain at all; however, they do tend to have certain things in common: for example, they have often remained active their whole lives; have not had any joint injuries (e.g. whiplash or broken bones); and they have had a relatively stress-free lifestyle with good nutrition.
Natural, drug-free arthritis treatment
Although there is no cure for OA, the symptoms can benefit from several treatments, which may need to be ongoing to offer lasting relief.
The National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE) has several recommendations for treatment, which include exercise, weight loss, paracetamol, anti-inflammatory creams and shock-absorbing insoles.
Our approach uses the best evidence from some of the more recent studies too.