Use it Or Lose It – Is Arthritis Making You Feel 90 Before Your Time?

Madonna turned 50 and is still strutting her stuff, thinking nothing of doing the splits during her routine. Who would guess she reached the half-century mark?

This observation supports the argument that if you use it, you won’t necessarily lose it. Unfortunately most of us don’t have the flexible joints that Madonna has. As we age, most of us feel old before our time because of the aches and pains that often develop into arthritis, which can be painful and debilitating.

Arthritis is the single biggest cause of disability caused by the body mistakenly attacking healthy joints and tissues. In the United States alone, it is estimated that between 30 and 60 million people suffer from arthritis.

Osteoarthritis vs rheumatoid arthritis-what’s the difference?

The most prevalent forms of arthritis are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Of the two, osteoarthritis is by far the most common form of arthritis, usually effecting people over the age of 50, with some 10 per cent of those over 60 being affected.

Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease, thought to be the result of wear and tear on the cartilage of affected joints over many years. Repeated injuries and/or surgeries are also considered to be contributing factors to this form of arthritis.

When you have osteoarthritis you face the loss of the protective surface of cartilage over the ends of your bones. This can lead to the growth of tiny bone ‘spurs’, which grate together on movement, causing pain and leading to swelling of the joint, most easily seen in the joints at the ends of the fingers and in the knees. As well as these joints, the hips, base of the thumbs and the spine are commonly affected.

Osteoarthritis of the fingers is more common in women, and is particularly likely to run in families. Obesity is strongly linked to osteoarthritis of the knee and to a lesser extent of the hip.

Rheumatoid arthritis is warm to the touch

Rheumatoid arthritis, a painful, inflammatory type of arthritis affecting almost 400,000 people in the UK, occurs when the body’s immune system attacks itself.

Rheumatoid arthritis is a common type of chronic arthritis where there is much swelling and pain in both small and large joints. The hands, especially the large knuckle joints, are most commonly affected.

The joint swelling, which is often red and warm to the touch, is due to considerable inflammation of the synovium, a thin layer of tissue surrounding many joints, responsible for the production of the lubricating synovial fluid. In rheumatoid arthritis much of the swelling is due to an increase in this fluid.

Possible triggers are infections, food allergies and genetic factors. About 1 per cent of the population world-wide suffer from rheumatoid arthritis, with women being three times more likely than men to suffer. The most common age of onset is in the forties, with it being more likely to start in the winter months.

Ways to control arthritis pain

Although there is no cure for osteoarthritis, there are ways to control or lessen the pain and reduce the degree of disability.

Most people will be prescribed a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication such as ibuprofen, which will temporarily mask the pain of arthritis, without addressing the root cause of it.

Recent studies have shown encouraging evidence that glucosamine and chondroitin supplements can provide long-term help with treating osteoarthritis, the most prevalent type of wear-and-tear arthritis. However, more research must be completed to confirm the findings.

There are other things you can do to minimize the progression and improve symptoms of osteoarthritis. Simple things like weight control, exercise and modifications to your diet can help in the treatment of arthritic problems.

Perhaps Madonna should be our poster child for the arthritis society.