Arthritis is a common condition that causes inflammation and pain in the joints. Across the world over 350 million people have arthritis, and in the UK alone, more than 10 million people - or 1 in 6 - have arthritis or other, similar conditions that affect the joints.
It is a common misconception that arthritis just affects the elderly, or those with frail bones and joints; but in actual fact, it affects people of all ages, including children.
There are five particularly common types of arthritis, and the symptoms and side effects vary depending on the type you experience.
So, what are the different types and what symptoms should I look out for?
This is the most common form of arthritis and is caused by the breakdown of cartilage - the material that covers the ends of the bones and acts as a shock absorber. As you can imagine, without the cartilage, the affected joints will rub together and cause you a deep aching pain or discomfort when carrying out everyday movements like walking or even getting dressed.
The cartilage goes through ‘wear and tear’ over time which is why this is also common in older people but osteoarthritis can also come from obesity where joints are bearing excess weight and wear over time. Typically, this affects the knees, hips, spine and feet.
This is an autoimmune disease that leads to inflammation and can cause severe joint damage if left untreated. Approximately 20% of people who suffer from this form of arthritis will also experience rheumatoid nodules, which are lumps on the skin that form over the joints taking the most pressure - like the knuckles, elbows or heels.
Around 10 - 30% of people who suffer from psoriasis may also experience psoriatic arthritis, which causes inflammation of the affected areas - typically the fingers and toes. People who have it often have fingernails that are pitted or discoloured, too.
Gout is caused by a buildup of uric acid crystals in a joint which causes a sharp and sudden pain in the joints - typically the big toe but also occurs in the elbows, ankles and knees. Even when the sharp pain subsides, you may then find there’s a lingering discomfort and stiffness in the affected joint.
This is an autoimmune disease that causes your body to attack your body and cause inflammation in your joints, organs or brain, instead of attacking viruses and other unfamiliar invaders. This is most common among people aged 15 - 44 and is more common among women of childbearing age than men. Symptoms include fatigue, mouth sores, headaches, swollen joints.
Even though arthritis is a degenerative condition, it doesn’t mean that nothing can be done to help minimise joint inflammation, prevent damage, and, in some cases, slow the condition.
Osteopathy as a practice looks at the body with a particular focus on how the joints, muscles and ligaments work together in order to help realign your form and ease discomfort. Where practices like physiotherapy address ‘recovery’ for aches, pains and injuries, think of osteopathy as the ‘pre-covery’ stage that supports physical wellbeing and joint health on an ongoing basis to help reduce the chance of injury.
An osteopath can help provide you with exercises that will support joint mobility, help improve your range of movement and allow you to build up your strength and stamina gradually to avoid injury and improve your function. Manual therapy, such as gentle massage or stretching can also help to reduce pain and stiffness.
There are also a number of exercises you can do to support arthritic discomfort, some of which are explored in this post but, for tailored advice specific to your condition, we’d recommend getting in touch and setting up an appointment with one of our qualified osteopaths.
At West 1, we’ll help relieve your pain quickly with effective treatment that also helps you stay free from painkillers. Here's what your first visit with us will include: