There are a number of conditions that cause arthritic pain:
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Ankylosing spondylitis (AxSpA)
- Psoriatic arthritis
- Reactive arthritis
OA is the one we might just call “arthritis”. It is not a rheumatoid or autoimmune condition, and is considered more “wear and tear”. In reality, it’s more a case of “wear, tear, and repair” as the body is aware of the damage and works to heal itself. Arthritic pain from OA is typically quite predictable and slowly progressive if not treated. Pain may manifest as a dull ache, and movement through an affected joint may feel rough.
Joint cartilage is affected in OA. Due to injury or a change in use, cartilage within the joint becomes unhealthy. It has a poor blood supply so relies on compression and decompression to get nutrients from joint fluid. Like a sponge, if the compression and decompression is insufficient, it will hold onto its waste products. This leads to degradation, which may come quite a while before pain.
The body tries to adapt, often avoiding the uncomfortable movement- which does not help the cartilage. It may be around this time that symptoms develop, or someone else notices that you are moving differently. Many people think that an OA diagnosis is the end of the road, but we can help.
Reintroducing the movement in treatment sessions is the first step in getting your body back to moving how it should. The sooner we see you, the better the state of your cartilage, and the better the outcome. Addressing problems before they cause compensations elsewhere is ideal.
Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)
RA is much less common than OA, but not an uncommon condition. It affects around 1% of the population, and can be diagnosed by a combination of blood tests, scans. This form of arthritis is autoimmune, meaning it is caused by the body mistakenly attacking itself. There are genetic links, and the condition is more common in women and smokers.
Unlike OA, arthritic pain resulting from rheumatoid arthritis can come and go. Some people with RA have relapsing and remitting episodes, whereas others have it continuously. Joints affected by RA include the small joints of the hands and feet, and the neck. Arthritis in the neck can lead to headaches, which we can also help with.
RA pain is worse after rest, and often it’s morning symptoms that lead to a diagnosis. Pain may be deep and achey, and over time joints may become deformed. See the above image for changes that affect the joints of the hands. As rest makes symptoms worse, your osteopath can work with you to find management strategies including daily exercises.
Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS) and AxSpA
In the same family as RA, we have AxSpA. Both are autoimmune, and both are associated with the HLA-B27 gene. in AS and AxSpA, painful inflammatory episodes cause damage to the joints of the spine and pelvis, and the body heals incorrectly. Over time, it lays new bone over the injured joints, fusing them and causing stiffness.
AxSpA is short for axial spondyloarthritis, which refers to how it affects the joints of the spine. Technically it is only called AS in later stages, as “ankylosing” refers to the fusion that occurs later on.
Arthritic pain from these conditions is often misdiagnosed as simple chronic back pain. As we see a lot of lower back pain, we are in a good position to spot when something is not quite right. Your osteopath can’t formally diagnose AS or AxSpA, but we can support your route to your GP and rheumatologist if needed.
Managing Arthritic Pain
We cannot cure arthritis, but we can help you manage your symptoms. Alongside hands on treatment in clinic, we can provide exercise and advice. Some inflammatory conditions are aggravated by diet and certain activities, so understanding the details of this is an important part of feeling better.
Get on top of your arthritic pain, book an appointment online now.