Osteoarthritis - The Basics

Arthritis is a condition which affects the musculoskeletal system, specifically the joints. It can occur within any joint of the body. There are many different types of arthritis, all with their own causes, features, and symptoms.Arthritic Knee PainThe most common type of arthritis is called osteoarthritis, which is generally described as an overuse syndrome. Repetition of a specific motion or activity can cause degenerative changes to occur within an area or joint of the body. Lack of movement or fixation of a joint can also cause arthritic changes over time. Larger, weight bearing joints such as the knee, hip, and spine are common joints affected with these degenerative changes, as well as the hands and shoulders from overuse.Both men and women of any age may have degenerative changes or arthritis. It is NOT an age related condition as it can occur in anyone at any time, with symptoms generally increasing if left untreated. Arthritis causes a change in the bones and joints which it effects. It often causes enlargement of the joint and a change in the shape of the bones within that joint.These bony changes can most often be seen from X-ray views of the spine or extremities being affected, although imaging is not always necessary for treatment. In the spine, bone spurring may be seen which can become larger over time. Also common is a decrease in joint space, or the distance between two bones. Disc spaces between the vertebrae of the spine will eventually become thinner with arthritic conditions.Other joints such as the hip or knee will also have a loss of joint space between the bones. The shape of the bones within those joints may also undergo changes in shape. Degenerated joints are not always symmetrical, meaning just because one knee or shoulder is arthritic, does not mean the other side is as well. Risk factors depend on stresses applied to that joint over time. Injuries from sports, an accident, or trauma can also lead to joint deterioration if not cared for properly.Those who suffer from arthritis often experience pain with certain movements or levels of activity. Exercise can often become more difficult, especially with more advanced stages. Pain and stiffness in the morning is common and may decrease throughout the day.It is important to keep arthritic joints mobile. Since repetitive motion or lack of movement can cause degeneration, mobilization of those joints is important to stop the progression of the condition. Exercise is important for mobilization as well, as long as it does not exacerbate the condition too much.Chiropractic care focuses on mobilization of the spine and extremities. When preventative measures are taken to keep the body mobile while also remaining stable, degeneration is much less common. After degeneration has already begun, our focus shifts to correcting or preventing the problems from becoming worse. Stretching and strengthening programs also help to relieve pain and prevent progression of degeneration.