This is an exceptionally broad topic as arthritis can present in many ways. General symptoms include pain, swelling, reduced range of movement / stiffness which can be mild, moderate or severe. It may also surprise you that symptoms can actually come and go.
Osteoarthritis is one of the most common forms of arthritis. Our skeleton is incredibly designed, with the bony articulations making up a joint being lined with thick cartilage that provides a shiny cushion between the surfaces of the bones. Over time, for one reason or another, this cartilage can wear away.
Risk factors can include being overweight, family history, age and previous injury (for example prior ligament injury in a knee can alter weight bearing mechanics within the knee causing these surfaces to wear away faster).
Can it be prevented? Not necessarily but leading an active lifestyle, a healthy weight and avoiding excessive repetitive higher impact activities gives you the best possible chance!!
Inflammatory arthritis is very different in nature to above mentioned degenerative presentations. Humans have an intelligently designed immune system, which when working correctly can prevent disease and fight infection. When the system is faulty, which may occur as result of genetic factors or environmental influences, our immune system can start to attack the joints. Instead of fighting infection it begins to fuel it leading to pain, inflammation and potential joint erosion. Some examples of inflammatory arthritis include rheumatoid arthritis or ankylosing spondylitis
There is also metabolic Arthritis - which many will know as gout. Gout is caused by a build up of uric acid within the body. Uric acid is formed by the body as it breaks down purines which are found in many human cells but also in some commonly ingested foods Unfortunately for some they produce more uric acid than the body can process, with the excess forming needle like crystals inside a joint which creates severe pain and inflammation. If not managed correctly and uric acid levels are not stabilised then gout may become chronic and cause ongoing disability within that joint.
While the causes of arthritis differ the general goals of treatment remain the same. Reduce the symptoms and ultimately maintain or improve joint function.
How? Well in some cases there will be medical management required which will be case by case, but the one management strategy that rings true for arthritis as a whole is EXERCISE. There seems to be a general misunderstanding that if you have arthritis exercise is bad for you. Incorrect.
Exercise is fundamental to managing arthritic conditions. I will point out that yes it may mean you need to alter your choice of exercise, along with the duration and intensity. The benefits include improving joint mobility, increased bone density, strengthening of surrounding muscles and soft tissues which in turn help support the joints and improvements in pain levels.
I think it’s important to educate arthritic suffers that there will be good days and bad. Time your exercise when you are feeling you best. Everyone should understand the difference between pain and discomfort as this can be used this as a guide when you may start to push yourself too hard. An activity shouldn’t create pain, however it may not be uncommon to feel uncomfortable after exercise if its something you are not used to doing. If in doubt the best thing to do is ask someone who can help you.