Arthritis is a common ailment that can alter the cartilage in the joints and cause pain, immobility, swelling, and stiffness. Because arthritis is a broad definition for the more than 100 diseases that affect the skeletal and muscle systems – most commonly, the joints – saying you have arthritis provides enough details of your ailment as telling someone that you wear shoes. The only thing that sandals, boots, flip flops, sneakers, and stilettos have in common is that you wear them on your feet. The same is true with the different forms of arthritis. Wherever there is cartilage and joints, you can get arthritis, and the symptoms and response vary from person to person. In fact, many people assume that arthritis only affects the hands, not knowing that there are different parts of the body that can be affected.
Arthritis can affect muscles, ligaments, tendons, and even internal organs. The most common types of arthritis are osteoarthritis (that long “wear and tear” arthritis that is degenerative and chronic in nature) and rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disease that causes chronic inflammation as the body mistakenly attacks its own immune system and body tissue.
Osteoarthritis – My aching back!
The more common of the two types of arthritis, osteoarthritis affects more than 21 million Americans and is characterized by diminishing cartilage that results in swelling, pain, limited range of motion, and bone on bone rubbing that can develop bone spurs. While osteoarthritis tends to be more prevalent as we age, it can develop in anyone at any age, especially if they are involved in weight-bearing activities, sports, injuries, or extremely physical activities. If you fit these categories, expect osteoarthritis to develop in the weight-bearing joints – particularly the knees, hips, shoulders, and spine.
Rheumatoid Arthritis – What Grandma knew
Unlike osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, or RA, affects the lining of the joints, leading to swelling and, eventually, joint deformity and joint erosion.
Perhaps your grandparent or elderly aunt complained of her rheumatism acting up. What grandma was complaining about is what we now call RA. You may recall grandma’s hands appearing deformed, perhaps with fingers resembling a swan’s neck (“swan neck deformity”), or oddly bent (Boutonniere’s Syndrome). That’s because RA is an autoimmune disease and is not brought on by a combination of time and external influences like osteoarthritis. While RA is most common in the joints of the hands and feet, it also can affect the hips, elbows, and knees; as well as the wrist, shoulder, ankles, cervical spine, and even the larynx joint (located near your windpipe). One study even showed that upwards of 90% of RA patients showed symptoms of TMJ and bruxism (teeth grinding).
While there is no cure for RA, and osteoarthritis can be debilitating, there are many treatments – from pain management to physical therapy and surgery – that can lessen the symptoms and reduce the pain. OrthoUnited is your partner when it comes to you and your family’s orthopedic health. To request an appointment, call (844) 469-2663 or go online using our appointment request form.