Arthritis is one of the common causes of pain and disability globally. People often think that it is a disease of old individuals. It can also affect children and teenagers. Arthritis is a group of degenerative conditions marked by inflammation in the joints which causes stiffness and pain. There are more than 100 types of arthritis but the most common is Degenerative arthritis (Osteoarthritis). Other types are Inflammatory arthritis (Rheumatoid arthritis, Psoriatic arthritis), Infectious Arthritis and Metabolic arthritis.
What complaints does the individual have? Each arthritis has distinct clinical presentations but common complaints and clinical findings are:
- Redness of skin overlying the joint
- Warm joint
- Swollen joint
- Muscle spasm
- Joint stiffness
- Decreased joint movement
- Muscle weakness.
Some individuals may have all of the above manifestations of arthritis. This explains why arthritis can reduce the patient’s productivity.
Causes of arthritis include the following:
- Previous injuries to the joint
- Metabolic diseases (example is gout)
- Hereditary factors
- Direct or indirect infections of the joint
- Auto immune disorders (Disorders in which the body attacks itself)
Risk factors for arthritis include:
- Increasing age
- Strenuous occupation
- Poor posture
Treatment: Goals in the management of arthritis include
- Relief of pain
- Improving mobility of affected joint
- Increasing strength to support affected joint
- Maintaining fitness and ability to perform daily activities.
Approaches at treatment include:
- Exercise therapy: Strengthening exercises
- Cryotherapy (use of very low or freezing temperature to reduce pain of arthritis)
- Heat therapy: Infra red therapy, Paraffin wax bath therapy etc.
- Hydrotherapy (use of water for pain relief)
- Electrotherapy: An example is LASER Therapy
- Ultrasound therapy
- Massage therapy with pain-relieving gel
- Stabilisation/Immobilisation of joint
- Use of ambulatory devices etc.
The fact is that there is no sure way to prevent arthritis but it’s risk can be reduced or onset can be delayed. Behavioral modification can be used to prevent arthritis such as exercises, healthy diet, avoidance of smoking, moderate alcohol consumption, use of protective equipment during sports and at work, avoidance of injury to the joints, and prevention of joint infection.
Adewumi Adeagbo is a Physiotherapist, researcher and specialist in rehabilitation of neurological conditions in adults and children. He is an expert in identification and maximisation of individual functional ability and potential. He is a Lecturer at Department of Physiotherapy, College of Medicine of the University of Lagos. He can be contacted via firstname.lastname@example.org