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Athritis: Challenging the Pain!

Physical activity-even if you don't lose an ounce you'll live longer, feel healthier and be less likely to get cancer, heart disease, stroke and arthritis. It's the closest thing we have to a wonder drug. - Tom Frieden

An approximate staggering 350 million people (young and old) worldwide suffer from some kind of athritis! Call it a global epidemic if you like, but even more intriguing is the role that regular exercises and maintenance of optimal body weight can play reducing the risk of developing athritis and towards attaining a "pain-free life".

What is Athritis?
It is the inflammation of any joint that is commonly associated with pain and stiffness. 

Regular effective exercise is vital for arthritis patients
Though there are more than a 100 types of athritis (CDC 2016) each with its own causes, symptoms and complications.

Osteoathritis and rheumatoid athritis are 2 of the most common types.

Osteoathriritis(OA) is the most common joint disorder worldwide which occurs due to aging and wear and tear on a joint that could result from obesity, excessive use in certain occupations/sports and advancing age is known to be one of the strongest risk factors. 

Rheumatoid athritis (RA) on the other hand is an autoimmune athritis resulting from the body's own immune cells mistakenly attacking the tissues of the joint lining resulting in stiffness, swelling and pain. Patients with RA may manifest with dry eyes, dry mouth, swollen digits and eye symptoms.. Though it may occur in anyone, it is more common in women and older adults.

The key differences between both conditions is in how the symptoms present. The pain of OA is worse with activity and relieved by rest in contrast to the pain of rheumatoid athritis. Whilst morning stiffness experienced in OA  resolves within 30 minutes, it lasts longer in rheumatoid arthritis.Also, RA is also found to be symmetrical in that it tends to affect the same joint on both sides of the body.

Treatment of both OA and RA  consists of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), physical therapy, use of corticosteroids and even surgery. While RA treatment also involves the use of anti-thematic and biologic agents in addition to the above.

The role of physical therapy in the management of joint problems cannot be over-emphasized. Physical therapy helps to restore the use of the joints by improving mobility, increasing the strength of the muscles around the joints and maintaining fitness. 

Athritis may be not curable, but surely it is manageable, even more manageable when the patient is involved.

So how well can the patient be involved?
Exercise, regular effective exercise is vital for patients with athritis, and non-drug treatment options are an integral part in the management of the condition. This have been shown to improve symptoms in many patients. 

As important as exercise, is weight loss (some amount of weight loss is always great). Being overweight has been linked to the development of athritis of the knee and its worsening, hence weight loss can   help to reduce pain particularly in the knees and hips as well as lower the risk of OA even in advancing age.

Though the development of many kinds of athritis is strongly associated with aging, here are some signs to be on the look out for that may necessitate scheduling an appointment with your doctor.

  • Pain, swelling or stiffness in one or more joints
  • Warm or reddish discoloration around a joint
  • Difficulty moving a joint or doing daily activities
  • Any concerning joint symptoms

Finally, exercise and physical therapy with gentle muscle-strengthening exercises are always helpful as is range of movement exercises to maintain flexibility and good posture.

Medic-ALL 2018


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