Many people know that when pain is felt in the joints, the most likely cause is what is commonly known as arthritis. This is especially true if a person is already in his or her middle age, and if the person experiencing the pain is a little on the heavy side.
However, it will be safe to assume that not very many people are aware that when there is joint pain, whether in the hands or in the knees, it may not be necessarily arthritis; it can be something else. Or if ever it is arthritis, there are many types of arthritis, and each type of arthritis means different symptoms, different causes, and different intervention measures.
So what is arthritis and how will you know its arthritis that you have?
First of all, arthritis happens when the joints in any parts of your body are swollen. This can happen in your hands, in your knees, and in your ankles. The pain is actually caused by the swelling of the cartilage that covers and protects the bones from each other. When the cartilage is swollen, it causes discomfort and pain, ranging from mild (at the onset) to severe.
One of the common types of arthritis is what is called osteoarthritis. This is not an easy disease because it is a progressive type of illness. Progressive means that the condition can get worst over time. When not managed well, the part of the body that is affected by osteoarthritis becomes damaged and will eventually deteriorate. That part of the body will be deformed and will no longer function as efficiently as it used to prior to the disease.
So what causes osteoarthritis?
According to medical experts, the normal cause of osteoarthritis is excessive use of the joints. There are a lot of contributing factors to the excessive use of the joints, and some of them are actually preventable. For instance, when a person is overweight, the joints in the knees and in the ankles are subjected to too much weight. Because of the excess weight, the bones and the cartilage that serves as cushion to the bones are stressed to the limit. This damages the cartilage and the bones, which in the end causes the cartilage to swell; pain then follows.
This is also true when a person has gone through injuries affecting the joints. When left unattended, or when the joints are again abused, osteoarthritis follows. The same can be also said when people exercise beyond the normal, like lifting excessive weights. Not very many people maybe realize that lifting weight can do more harm than good to the body, especially when not done with the guidance of fitness and health experts.
Which Joints in the Body Are More at Risk to Osteoarthritis?
Generally, those joints that carry so much weight, such as the knees, the hips, and the spine are more susceptible to osteoarthritis. But this can also affect other joints in the body; in the hands – the fingers and the thumb; the neck, and it can also affect large toe. Osteoarthritis also affects joints that have been previously injured. Joints that are always subjected to extreme pressure or stress are also more likely to become damaged.
Can Osteoarthritis Be Treated?
At the onset of osteoarthritis, most doctors would recommend that the patient lose weight. Also, the doctor will recommend physical therapy with muscle strengthening exercises. There are also medications that may be prescribed which are normally taken in conjunction with the application of hot and cold compresses to the painful joint. When medications take longer to effect, doctors may recommend removal of joint fluid; injection of medications into the joint; and using support devices such as crutches or canes. In severe cases, surgery may be the last option especially when all other medications have been ineffective.