Inflammatory arthritis (IA) is far less common than osteoarthritis, and quite distinct from it. An inflammatory arthritis is a chronic systemic inflammatory disorder, which in a nutshell means a long term condition that directly cause the inflammation in many different parts of the body. The most commonly diagnosed IA is rheumatoid arthritis.
Inflammatory arthropathies are most commonly diagnosed, through blood tests, sometimes genetic investigation, correlated together with clinical symptoms and information gained from various different types of diagnostic imaging and observation over time.
In terms of treatment, the situation is quite different to common osteoarthritis. Our approach, and indeed the extent to which we are able to help will vary hugely depending upon the specific form and presentation of IA involved. Firstly, and most importantly, treatment is not appropriate during an inflammatory episode, however treatment during a non-inflammatory episode can greatly reduce joint pain, stiffness and weakness. Generally speaking, treatments focus on gentle and specific joint mobilization and manipulation combined with a number of soft tissue techniques including massage, stretch and release techniques. Muscle strengthening and conditioning is a key part of looking after the affected areas long term and so exercises are frequently prescribed.
Incase you missed the subtle message hidden in the above paragraph......this means homework!
The first thing that we need to establish during your diagnosis, is which of your symptoms are actually being caused by the IA and which are attributable to the more subsequent nerve irritation, muscle and mechanical problems that follow. It sounds daft, but just because you have an IA, it doesn't make you immune to other, more common causes of nerve, muscle and joint problems, in fact often the action of an IA will leave you more prone to them. This is actually very good news as mechanically rooted symptoms are much quicker and easier to treat effectively.
Regular and specific exercises are a fundamental part of our approach to treatment generally, they are particularly important for maintaining joint mobility and muscle strength and are crucial for patients suffering from an Inflammatory Arthritis. Simply put, the more effectively you manage your mechanical joint function and strength, the more effectively you will recover from and resist the longer term effects of the Inflammatory Arthritis.