There are over 100 forms of arthritis, with varying signs and symptoms. It’s a joint disease, often resulting in joint pain, swelling, stiffness, and loss of joint function over time. Most people fall within two types of arthritis. The most common is osteoarthritis (OA), or wear and tear arthritis, and it usually shows up after age 40 or 50. Severe trauma to a joint can also cause rapid development of OA. OA occurs when cartilage, the tough, slipery tissue and the ends of bones deteriorates, causing smooth surfaces to roughen. This degenerative process may eventually lead to bone on bone joint pain. Flare-ups often occur following activity of the involved joints, especially when overused. The thumb joints and the knees are popular locations.

Causes for OA are unknown, although cartilage damage from abnormal movement patterns or a previous injury are  key risk factors. Other risk factors are lack of exercise, excess weight, age, and genetic factors.

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA), begins earlier, usually around 25 years old, and develops rapidly. ~75% of those with RA are women.

RA, unlike OA, is considered an autoimmune disease, which means that your immune system attacks and destroys your synovial membranes which surround your joints. These synovia are supposed to protect your joints-instead, they become inflamed, warm, painful, and eventually eat away and the cartilage and bone, damaging ligaments and tendons around the joint. Over time, the joint may become disfigured and destroyed. RA usually affects the joints on both sides of the body, often starting with the hands or wrists, and feet. Flare-ups occur unpredictably, and the immune reaction can cause inflammation in other areas of your body-your heart, lungs, nerves blood vessels, skin, and salivary glands.

You need to EXERCISE!!!!

Exercise not only helps you feel good and control weight, it also strengthens the muscles that support your joints, taking pressure off of the joint capsule itself.

The main precaution is to protect your joint from further damage-you need to listen to your body. Low-impact activities such as swimming, cycling, and moderate strength-training place less stress on the joints than do high-impact activities such as running, jumping, and heavy weight-training, especially if you are just starting out.

Exercise tips: Start easily with a warm-up or dynamic range-of-motion exercises. Increase intensity gradually. Ice afterwards. Cross-train by alternating between aerobic, strengthening, and flexibility exercises, and use good equipment, whether it’s shoes, a bike, etc.

I live with a severe form of arthritis, and exercise regularly. Stay strong for life’s punches. Exercise works.

For more info on what to do, or how, respond to this blog.

Stay well, John R. Blilie, M.S.