There are over 100 types of known arthritis, by far the most common of these being osteoarthritis. To make things confusing, osteoarthritis 'OA' its self goes by over 50 synonyms including spondylitis, spondylosis, degenerative joint disease (DJD), or often simply wear and tear.
The key points to understanding OA are:
- It is essentially a normal part of the aging process
- It is present to some degree in everyone over the age of about 40
- Most importantly, it is probably not causing your symptoms
Pain, and indeed most other nerve, muscle and joint related symptoms, are most commonly caused by an irritation of the 'soft' tissues. OA progressively weakens the bony stability of a joint, and can certainly leave your body more prone to soft tissue irritations, yet it doesn't cause them. OA is essentially a normal ageing process. However, as there are people well into their nineties who have no symptoms from it, it is recognized as a condition related to but not caused by ageing. For that reason, although we can't repair or stop osteoarthritic change, we can often slow down the process, and successfully treat the symptoms associated with it.
Acknowledging osteoarthritis can be part of the aging process, there is a clear and recognized correlation between mechanical problems and the onset of OA. It has therefore been theorized that mechanical stress on joints is the underlying mechanism for all OA. This would certainly account for the many and varied presentations when you consider the differing sources of mechanical stress including misalignments, loss of strength in supporting joints and uncoordinated movements that over stress joints.
Inflammatory arthritis (IA) is far less common than osteoarthritis, and is quite distinct from it. In a nutshell, IA means a long term condition that directly causes the inflammation in many different parts of the body. The most commonly diagnosed IA is rheumatoid arthritis. Other types of inflammatory arthritis include Ankylosing spondylitis, psoriatic arthritis, and polymyalgia rheumatica. Fibromyalgia (although not an IA) will present similarly with wide spread pain.
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. During your treatment we need to establish which of your symptoms are actually being caused by IA and which are attributable to nerve irritation, muscle and mechanical problems. If in your appointments and observation over time, we feel you maybe suffering with inflammatory arthropathies we may refer you for genetic investigation and blood tests, correlated together with clinical symptoms and information gained from various different types of diagnostic imaging.