Osteopaths are qualified to help with your arthritic pain. We can divide “arthritic pain” into two categories. Usually when people talk about “arthritis” they mean osteoarthritis. This is the “wear and tear” variety, and sits in contrast to the autoimmune or inflammatory forms of arthritis.
Arthritic Pain from Osteoarthritis
Osteoarthritis or “OA” affects most people beyond middle age. Unfortunately, the common misunderstanding is that it’s just something you have to live with once you have it. However, like most conditions, its severity is variable. Early stage OA may be asymptomatic or relatively mild. Importantly, it coincides with mild changes to the joint, some of which may be reversible if caught early enough.
Arthritic pain caused by OA may start gently, with an intermittent ache after some activities. It’s possible that your first symptoms are actually away from the affected joint. The body is really good at adapting to keep you out of pain- but this can actually make the original problem worse, as well as causing issues elsewhere. Your osteopath can spot compensatory patterns caused by things like OA.
The Process of Osteoarthritis
OA is a condition of cartilage. You can think of cartilage as like a sponge: it doesn’t have a good blood supply so it needs to be squashed to squeeze out waste. When it is released, nutrients can flow back in. If there is a reason for a joint to become restricted, some of the cartilage will lose its compression and decompression. As a result, it builds up waste in this area and the tissue begins to become unhealthy.
The body will adapt around the joint, with muscles becoming tight or weak in response to the demands placed on them. Your osteopath will work to improve the joint’s movement. Both working on the joint itself and the muscles that act on it are important. Catching and treating it early enough can mean slowing or even sometimes reversing the changes.
Late stage OA often leads to joint replacement. As the condition worsens, the cartilage diminishes, eventually reaching a point where it can’t be regenerated. Bone beneath the cartilage develops cysts, which can be painful and further degrade the quality of the joint surface.
Arthritic Pain from Inflammatory Arthritis
Although there is some inflammation in osteoarthritis, it is not it’s defining feature. Other forms of arthritis including rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and psoriatic arthritis (PA) are autoimmune, and the damage is done by inflammation itself.
Symptoms of RA can be the most obvious in the hands. RA affects small joints such as those in the neck and hands, and flares can cause deformities. Hard lumps forming on the knuckles can appear in both OA and RA, but in the latter they will have signs of inflammation initially. These are heat, pain, redness, and swelling. Alongside these, the wrists can begin to point out, known as ulnar deviation.
Because these forms of arthritis are dictated by the immune system, we can’t cure them. They might flare in response to excess activity, as well as to rest. Gentle treatment can sit in the middle ground to help with your pain. We can also help guide you to finding the right level of activity to manage your symptoms on a daily basis.