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Arthritis, Osteoporosis and Rheumatoid

lower back x-raySo you just had an x-ray for some medical reason and fortunately everything is okay. “And by the way”, the doctor says, “You also have arthritis in that joint.” So what does that mean? Are you going to have restrict your activities and expect to have unremitting pain in that joint for the rest of your life?

Not likely.

Let’s take the word apart first. Arthritis is a compound word starting with ‘ARTH’ which refers to any joint structure. This indicates that the problem is occurring in a joint only. You cannot get arthritis in a muscle. ‘ITIS’ is the medical way of saying inflammation. So arthritis literally means an inflamed joint. When the doctor looks at an x-ray and diagnoses arthritis, he generally means the joint space is smaller than normal. This is usually indicative of normal wear and tear of that joint. We have the maximum amount of cartilage (and therefore biggest joint space) by the time we hit 20 to 25 years of age. After that, it’s downhill.

Now just because you have arthritis does not mean your life is over. In fact, it is possible to perform activities, work and enjoy life with mild to moderate arthritis. There are enough studies available to show that a regular exercise program helps to reduce arthritic pain as well as improve quality of life.

So the next question, what is different about osteoporosis and arthritis? Aren’t they basically the same thing? Not really. Just like the term ARTHRitis, the term OSTEO gives definition to the word. Osteo is the medical term used to describe anything to do with the bones. It does not define which bones either. Looking at the second half of the word makes it easier to understand, ‘POROSIS’. It looks like the word porous, or full of holes, which is exactly what this ten dollar medical word means. So the word ‘osteoporosis’ means the bones are full of holes which normally should not be there.

Bone is a living tissue that is constantly being remodelled throughout life. During the first space shots, the astronauts would come back being very muscle-weak and bone-fragile. There was almost no physical stresses on their bodies and as a result their bodies would absorb the excess calcium. As a result, all astronauts now do gravity simulated exercise when in space to avoid muscle and bone loss. The same process can be used down here on earth. One of the best things to prevent and even recover from osteoporosis is weight training. As the body senses it is having increased loads, it starts to add more calcium to the bones in order to deals with the loading. The exercises can start very light and progress from there.

Different Varieties of Arthritis

There are multiple different varieties of arthritis which can affect the body in a variety of ways. Some, like rheumatoid arthritis, are caused by a disease process. Rheumatoid arthritis is generally characterised by the body starting to fight itself and damaging cartilage as a result. The body seems to get the idea that there is an invading organism within the joints and goes through the full immune response to protect itself unfortunately it only ends up destroying itself. Even in this condition, a gentle exercise program has been shown to be helpful.

The take home message here is to stay mobile and active all our life. It only helps. If you have any questions about arthritis, we would be happy to discuss them with you at the clinic. Give the office a call and ask to set up an appointment with one of the physical therapists.

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