According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, “arthritis is the leading cause of disability in the United States.” It is estimated that one out of every five, or 20 percent, of people living in the United States has experienced symptoms of arthritis in at least one joint, and about half of arthritis sufferers are under the age of 50. (2) Arthritis is a chronic disorder.
The two most common types of arthritis are osteoarthritis (OA) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA). The National Institutes of Health define OA is the gradual deterioration of cartilage and overgrowth of bone most commonly due to wear and tear, and RA as the inflammation of a joint’s connective tissues (eg. the synovial membranes) leading to the destruction of the articular cartilage. (4)
Gout, ankylosing spondylitis, systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE or Lupus), and psoriatic arthritis are other types of arthritis. (1)
Cartilage is nature’s “shock absorber,” and it provides a smooth gliding surface for the joint. When the cartilage becomes worn or is damaged or lost due to disease or trauma, the joint can no longer move painlessly.
The body attempts to make up for the lost cartilage by producing a fluid in the joint lining (synovium), to act like a cushion, but this fluid also causes swelling in the joint which restricts motion, and stretches the joint covering (capsule) which causes pain. (2)
Symptoms of Arthritis
“Symptoms of OA include:
• Stiffness on awakening or after prolonged rest
• Pain in a joint during or after use
• Discomfort in a joint before or during a change in weather
• Swelling and loss of flexibility in a joint
• Bony lumps (called Heberden and Bouchard nodes) that develop on the end or middle joint of the fingers” (1)
“Symptoms of RA include:
• Pain and swelling in any joint, but usually symmetrically (if one joint is affected, the other side will soon follow)
• Overall aching or stiffness, especially after sleeping or periods of motionlessness
• Joints that are swollen, painful, and warm to the touch during the initial attack and ensuing flare-ups