Stiffness in the joints is a common ailment that increases with aging. When the stiffness worsens to the point of being painful, arthritis may be the diagnosis. Arthritis is breakdown of normal cartilage caused by either excessive joint wear-and-tear or from an autoimmune disease called Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA). Rheumatoid arthritis is a disease where the body is actually fighting itself, which is what the term autoimmune means. It selectively attacks the synovial joints, especially the small joints of the hands or feet, and usually occurs on both sides of the body, meaning in both hands, both knees, etc.
Early detection of arthritis is essential. Once damage to a joint surface begins, little can be done to restore it back to its original condition. This is because cartilage, the material that makes up the surfaces of the joint, has a poor blood supply. Although cartilage will heal to a degree, it simply will not heal as well as muscle or skin. The good news is that proper care and supervised rehabilitative exercises can help strengthen the surrounding support tissues to compensate for many of these joint disorders.
As cartilage continues to wear down, the joint will have more difficulty functioning or moving correctly. A simple analogy to this is to go loosen the hinges on a door and see how poorly it opens and closes. Even if the swelling could be entirely removed from a very arthritic joint, the lack of proper joint motion would cause so much additional stress to the joint that the swelling would quickly return.
It is important to reduce and control the swelling of arthritis, as the swelling itself contributes to the destruction of the cartilage. People with rheumatoid arthritis usually see swelling in the affected joint after rest, especially upon awakening.
Symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis
Common diagnostic criteria for those affected with rheumatoid arthritis include morning stiffness, pain with motion, soft tissue swelling, joint effusion in at least one joint, swelling of at least one joint, bilateral, symmetrical, and simultaneous joint swelling, and subcutaneous nodules.
Other symptoms of RA include:
Generalized muscle weakness
Many people think of rheumatoid arthritis as a condition of the hands and wrists. However, 80% of patients will develop cervical spine changes, as well.
It is important to use arthritic joints, as disuse also leads to more arthritic changes. It is vital, though, to not over stress an arthritic joint. Otherwise, the swelling may significantly worsen. Here at Mountain View Pain Center, your chiropractor will help guide you before you begin any exercise program or commit to any significant physically-related lifestyle changes.
Treatment of Rheumatoid Arthritis
At Mountain View Pain Center, we see many patients with rheumatoid arthritis. The spine is especially susceptible to this disorder. In fact, you may have the early signs of spinal rheumatoid arthritis and have not noticed the symptoms yet. You can palpate (feel) the vertebrae while the spine is slowly moving to see if you have joints that do not move as freely as others. Another more revealing diagnostic procedure is a simple x-ray. An x-ray film can reveal the bony changes associated with either rheumatic arthritis.
Treatment for the two types of arthritis is similar. Both require ice, passive motion (the practitioner moves the joint while the patient remains relaxed), and/or the use of ultrasound to help control the swelling, as well as moist heat to help increase circulation. Paraffin wax baths are helpful for hands and wrists, while moist hot packs are used for the spine, shoulders, and knees. Arthritic hips may require deep heat sources like microwave or short wave diathermy. This is because the hip joints are seated too deeply in the pelvis to reach with more commonly-used therapies. At Mountain View Pain Center, we can provide, prescribe, or recommend these therapies as needed. We may also use the application of spinal and/or extremity manipulation to help you gain control over your arthritic condition, as well as recommend nutritional counseling, exercise instruction, and lifestyle changes as additional considerations during your course of care.
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CUTTING EDGE PAIN MANAGEMENT
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