Arthritis symptoms and the difference between osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Tips on managing degenerative arthritis symptoms and pain.
You wake up in the morning, feel a little stiff and achy and wonder if this is arthritis?
Your knees pop and hurt. You get out of bed and stretch, have your coffee, and take a shower. Within an hour or two you’re feeling pretty good. Could this be degenerative arthritis?
Chances are yes, especially if you’re over the age of 50 (or younger but had a very athletic youth).
There are two main types of arthritis: 1) Osteoarthritis (OA), otherwise known as degenerative arthritis or degenerative joint disease
and 2) Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)
which is an autoimmune disorder and can strike children or adults. Other types of arthritis are psoriatic arthritis, gout,
pseuodogout, septic arthritis, juvenile rheumatoid arthritis,
and inflammatory arthritis.
What is Osteoarthritis (OA)?
Osteo- means “bone”, arth- means “joint” and -itis means “inflammation.” Basically it’s inflammation of the bones and joints. Where two bones meet (say the femur and tibia of the leg – thigh and shin bones) there is a joint. Both ends of the bones are covered in a rubbery, springy material called cartilage. There are ligaments connecting the two bones, and there is fluid inside the joint to act as a shock absorber.
With OA, the cartilage loses its elasticity and springiness. This decreases its shock absorbing ability and causes the cartilage to break down. In the beginning, the early symptoms of arthritis
are mild and can be mistaken for simple muscle pain.
As the condition progresses, the cartilage gets more stiff and may wear completely away, causing arthritis symptoms as the bones rub directly against each other.
To protect itself, the body will try to stabilize the joint by stretching or tightening the surrounding ligaments and tendons. It may also add new calcium to the ends of the bones. This is called remodeling and is responsible for bone spurs.
If the condition continues to get worse, the bones may start to push on the spinal cord, causing neurological symptoms and difficulty walking. You can read about what spinal stenosis is by clicking here.
Let’s look at some X-rays:
The image on the left is an X-ray of a normal knee and the image on the right is an X-ray of a knee with severe degenerative arthritis. Notice how the normal knee has a very clearly defined, even joint space. The bone density is normal and you can clearly see the ends of all the bones.
The knee with arthritis
looks a lot different. The joint space is completely gone on the inside of the knee. The bone doesn’t look very healthy, and you can see where the body is laying down calcium to protect itself (that’s the very white delineation between the two bones on the right). Eventually bone spurs may form there.
That’s what causes the arthritis symptoms; the breakdown of the cartilage and the bones rubbing on each other.
The joints most commonly affected are the spine, hips, knees,
and fingers, although it can be found in any joint especially long after an injury.
- Joint pain with movement. Often in the morning and easing some throughout the day
- Pain and stiffness after periods of inactivity
- Enlargement of the middle and end joints of the fingers (these may or may not hurt)
- Joint swelling and excess fluid
Causes of OA
Heredity – yes, it can be passed down in families. An inherited defect in the genes responsible for making cartilage makes some people more likely to get it. People born with joint abnormalities have excess pressure on the joint which leads to faster breakdown. If someone is born with a spine abnormality like scoliosis or a hemi-vertebrae, they are more likely to develop osteoarthritis of the spine.
Obesity – Being overweight increases the risk for osteoarthritis of the knee, hip, and spine. Losing as little as 10% of excess weight
may improve arthritis symptoms. It will also help slow down the progression, especially if ideal weight is reached and maintained.
Injury – An injured joint is more likely to develop OA later on. An athlete with a knee injury is at a higher risk of getting arthritis symptoms in that knee. Or someone in a car accident who gets whiplash or a back injury is much more likely to develop OA in their spine than someone who is never in an accident.
Joint Overuse – Overuse of certain joints increases the risk of developing osteoarthritis. For example, people in jobs requiring repeated bending of the knee are at increased risk for developing osteoarthritis of the knee.
Manage Your Arthritis Symptoms with Alternative Therapies
Whether you’ve been recently diagnosed or suffering for years, there a lot of conventional medical treatments you can try, as well as alternative therapies that are incredibly effective.
Alternative treatments often have fewer risks and side effects than medications, and they work. To learn about some alternatives for arthritis, follow this link.
A book I like a lot is Herbs The Natural Alternative
Herbs have been used for years for their healing properties, and many have natural anti-inflammatory and pain relieving effects. For information on natural ways to relieve arthritis symptoms, this book has great information.
Arthritis Symptoms – Rheumatoid Arthritis
Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is different from degenerative arthritis
in that it is generally considered to be an “autoimmune” disorder. In other words, something causes the body’s immune system to attack itself, and leads to destruction of joints on both sides of the body. It’s this symmetrical nature that distinguishes RA from OA. It may also affect the eyes, skin, lungs, heart, blood or nerves.
In most patients, arthritis symptoms develop gradually over a period of years. There may be times of more rapid progression, or even periods of remission.
RA is well known for it’s deforming effects, especially of the hands. The following X-ray shows the progression of RA in the hands.
> Joint pain with movement. Often in the morning and easing some throughout the day.
> Pain and stiffness after periods of inactivity.
Causes of RA
The exact cause of RA is unknown. It seems to be a combination of genetic, environmental, and hormonal factors that lead to the progression of the disease. Something triggers the immune system, whether a virus or bacteria, or some other unknown item.
In clinical practice I find that patients with autoimmune disorders often have food intolerances or allergies
that cause flare ups of the disorder. A food allergen enters the blood stream through the gut (leaky gut syndrome) and the immune system creates antibodies to the food. Whenever that food is eaten, the immune system sends the antibodies out to fight it. For some reason, the joints seem to be the site of this internal war.
Is there a cure for Rheumatoid Arthritis? View an interesting video by Patrick Dixon, conference keynote speaker and futurist: Also over 100 videos from Stem Cell Basics
to the latest research including Anti-aging, Heart Disease, Diabetes, etc.
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