Arthritis: How we can improve your comfort and relive your pain
February 7, 2018
Arthritis – it can be painful, frustrating and limiting for many New Zealanders. In fact, almost 50% of those aged over 60 years, and almost all over 80 years old, are affected by osteoarthritis arthritis in New Zealand. Yep, that means that if you haven’t already, you and your family members have a high chance of developing arthritis as we age! Often, arthritis is perceived to have limited treatment options because of its degenerative and irreversible nature. The truth is that while you can’t reverse the damage from osteoarthritis, we definitely have tools to help ease your pain and improve your comfort! But first, let’s start with the basics.
What is osteoarthritis?Osteoarthritis describes the wearing down of the cartilage that covers the ends of our bones at the joints. Cartilage typically functions to help absorb shock, acting as a rubbery cushion, as well as creating a slippery surface for bones to move smoothly and efficiently past one another. As the cartilage is worn down, bones start to rub against one another. This causes pain and limits our ability to easily (and painlessly) move our joints and perform our everyday tasks.
What causes arthritis?The term ‘wear and tear’ that is often associated with osteoarthritis refers to the loads that we put on the joints during our lifetime that cause them to wear down. This being said, any repetitive activity or action that overloads and stresses the joints can contribute to the development and progression of osteoarthritis. For example, this may be from our work, or may be as a result of increased weight (or both). Other contributing factors can include previous injury to our joints or bones, or infections. While osteoarthritis isn’t typically hereditary, it can run in families.
What are the symptoms?The symptoms of osteoarthritis progress and worsen over time, meaning you’ll likely start off with a twinge or mild discomfort in a joint. While not all changes to the joints are symptomatic, symptoms that present can include:
- Painful at the joints which may be exacerbated by use
- Swelling and redness
- Limited movement at joints
- Creaking in the joints
- Changes to the bone/joint shape (including irregular bony growth at the joints)
- Weakened muscles surrounding the joints