Arthritis is a common joint condition. It literally means joint inflammation and there are many different types of arthritis that can occur. Some may be acute meaning that it lasts for several days or a few weeks at most. Others may be chronic in that it persists or recurs over years and even decades. Most of us think of arthritis as being a problem in older people but depending on the type of arthritis, it can occur in young adults, teens or even in babies. The treatment for arthritis varies based on the type of arthritis involved as well as the severity of the condition.
The two most common types of arthritis is osteoarthritis (OA) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Both are chronic conditions.
- Osteoarthritis is mainly seen in older people. It starts around the 40s but symptoms only become apparent by the late 50s or 60s. Every person has some degree of osteoarthritis by the 70s although some tend to suffer with worse that others. In osteoarthritis the cartilage that caps the two ends of the bone in the joint become worn down until the bones rub against each other. Therefore it is known as a degenerative joint condition.
- Rheumatoid arthritis is the second most common type of arthritis. It tends to start much earlier in life, typically around the 20s and 30s. Sometimes it arises in childhood although this is rare. In RA the body’s immune system attacks the tissue lining the joint(s) of the body. This causes the joint tissue to become inflamed and over time it can lead to nodules at the joint and even deformities. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune condition and inflammatory arthritis.
There are several other types of arthritis which are less frequently seen. Two other important, although uncommon, types of arthritis are post-traumatic arthritis and septic arthritis. Post-traumatic arthritis develops after injury to a joint or the limb where it is located. Septic arthritis is where a joint becomes infected with microbes like bacteria.
The causes of arthritis depends on the type of arthritis.
- Osteoarthritis is caused by a combination of age-related changes, wear-and-tear on the cartilage, overuse of the a joint and obesity.
- The cause of rheumatoid arthritis is unknown. It is believed to be due to a combination of genetic factors and other events in life. Sometimes RA starts up after a viral infection or with the use of certain drugs.
- Post-traumatic arthritis can occur in any person after a injury like a fall or breaking a limb. Even if the joint itself is not affected in the injury, the changes to the limb may eventually impact on the joint.
- Septic arthritis is usually due to bacteria and this may occur with an open wound to the joint. It can even arise after surgery to a joint or the surrounding area.
Typical arthritis symptoms include:
- Pain in the joint which is usually worse with movement and in some cases eases slightly with rest.
- Swelling of the joint or around it.
- Heat and redness of the skin over the joint.
- Stiffness of the joint with reduced range of motion of the limb.
The term arthritis means joint inflammation. Therefore one would expect the typical inflammatory symptoms such as pain, redness, swelling and heat. However, osteoarthritis often does not have this inflammatory component despite being referred to as an arthritis. Therefore many people with mild osteoarthritis do not have the symptoms above and may not even know that they have a joint problem. In osteoarthritis there may also be bone spurs and a grating sound when moving the joint. The symptoms like pain generally worsens with activity.
The treatment of arthritis can vary greatly depending on the type of arthritis present. Drugs that may be used includes non-steroidal anti0inflammatory drugs, corticosteroids, lubricant injections, antibiotics, immune modulators and sometimes immune-suppressing agents. Often these drugs need to be continued in the long term and stopping it even for a short while can cause the arthritis to recur or for the symptoms that are present to worsen. Surgery may be necessary, especially for osteoarthritis where joint replacement/reconstructive surgery can provide significant relief.
Similar to conventional medical treatment, the homeopathic treatment varies depending on the type of arthritis involved. A combination of homeopathic and herbal medicines may be used along with conservative measures like lifestyle changes. An important component in arthritis management, both conventional and complementary, is the physical therapies such as acupuncture, chiropractic, physiotherapy and the use of braces and orthotics. Arthritis needs to be assessed and treated on an individual basis.
Consult with a registered homeopath for a holistic approach to managing your arthritis. While some over-the-counter remedies and supplements such as glucosamine, chondroitin, MSM, arnica and capsicin rubs are helpful, these remedies may not be effective for every type of arthritis. A homeopath will be able to properly manage your case with a range of different therapies.