Welcome, to the intricate world of arthritis, let us unravel the mysteries behind two distinct members of the arthritis family tree: Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis.
Are all forms of Arthritis the same?
We will explore the two main forms of Arthritis, namely Rheumatoid and Osteoarthritis. The terms are often used interchangeably, but although they may both result in pain and difficulty walking, they are actually quite different conditions.
Osteoarthritis: The Seasoned Traveler
We can think of Osteoarthritis as the seasoned traveler in our arthritis family. It’s a condition that often accompanies the passage of time or arises from the aftermath of joint injuries and overuse. This journey involves the gradual breakdown of cartilage, the main cushioning tissue between bones. The result? A subtle but persistent discomfort and stiffness that can make your joints feel like they are covered in grit, making every step painful and difficult.
Rheumatoid Arthritis: The Rebel with a Cause
Rheumatoid Arthritis is a little different, and could be thought of as the rebel of the arthritis family. This is an autoimmune condition and the problems here arise from the immune system going rogue, mistaking joints as unwelcome intruders. They attack the joints creating inflammation, pain, and, at times, joint deformities.
While these two conditions may have different origins, they share a commonality in disrupting the harmony of our joints. Both conditions create pain and difficulty with mobility; and both conditions can eventually break down the joint to a level that it requires replacing. Managing them requires distinct strategies, ranging from lifestyle adjustments to targeted medications. It’s not a one size fits all situation, but understanding the individualities helps in navigating this complex journey.
So how can we help with these two conditions. Well, both of the conditions damage the joint. So all treatments involve ensuring the joints involved are balanced, strong and well aligned. Targeted strength work is the key to unlocking pain free movement again. However, as both conditions have different origins, the treatment options do vary somewhat.
Osteoarthritis, as mentioned, usually comes from wear and tear, or a previous injury. For this condition is it really important to rebalance the joint, making sure the bones of the joint are aligned properly, both when static and when moving. So targeted strength work, ensuring all structures fire correctly, at the right time and to the right amount is essential. Also ensuring both legs, in the case of the Knee joint, are balanced is really important. You can check this yourself in the gym. Head to the leg extension and leg curl machines. Using one leg only and the lightest weight the machine can offer; slowly extend, or flex your knee. Then do the same with the other leg. Did both legs feel the same, or was one easier than the other? If one was easier, you have an imbalance and should work in the gym to get both legs to the same strength.
Once they are the same strength we have to check the are balanced. Do the muscles on the inside fire as much as the ones on the outside? Are the muscles at the back of the leg as strong as the ones on the front? Now muscle firing patterns are quite specialist, so it would be worth booking in to get this checked if you are still in pain once you have done the weight machine option above.
Of course you don’t need to go to the gym. The same thing can be done with exercise bands at home.
Rheumatoid Arthritis Treatment
The same exercise and strength options that work for Osteoarthritis, also work for Rheumatoid Arthritis. However, as this is an autoimmune condition it is slightly more complex. All the rules of balance and strength are just as important, but you need to work with circulating inflammation, which can cause fatigue and pain that limits movement. Hopefully your consultant can give you medication to calm the inflammation, and this is essential, as you can’t strength train an inflamed joint. Once the inflammation is controlled, a specialist strength plan, allowing for your limitations can be created. Personalised strength is the key here, one size does not fit all!
Due to it’s nature Rheumatoid and Inflammatory conditions will ebb and flow with flare ups. While a flare up is occurring, little can be done exercise wise. But once it calms again, we can protect the joint by helping it to get strong again. Pain switches off muscles, so it is important to get them switched back on and working correctly between flare ups, to limit any joint damage that occurs.
Feel free to get in touch and we can both assess you joints and create a bespoke program to help limit the affects both these arthritis’ have on your life.
For more information on these conditions, take a look here.
See how we approach Osteoarthritis here: