Arthritis literally means “inflammation of the joints.” Signs of inflammation include pain and swelling, and people with arthritis know how truly painful it can be. There are two main types of arthritis: osteoarthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis each having different causes and different treatment strategies.
Osteoarthritis (OA) is also known as degenerative joint disease. It is a kind of joint inflammation that develops slowly, over time. The main symptoms are pain and stiffness in the affected joints, typically in the knees or hips, but can involve any joint in your body. Usually, joints on only one side of the body are affected; for example, your right knee or your left hip, although sometimes both sides can be painful. Women are slightly more prone to OA than men; as women get older, their chances of developing arthritis go up.
Your bones have cartilage at the ends to help them slide over each other easier. When you extend your knee, cartilage helps the bones not scrape against each other. With osteoarthritis, there is a breakdown of this cartilage which means your bones have less protection, and the inflammation is the body’s attempt to repair this cartilage. Your bones themselves can change shape, and the whole joint can become more stiff and painful.
Osteoarthritis may develop as a result of repeated movements, old injuries, weak muscles, and excess body weight, all of which can affect the joint movement. Over time, improper movements lead to inflammation. There is a genetic component to OA: it seems some people are more prone to inflammation in their joints than others.
Conventional treatment strategies for osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis involve lifestyle modification and pain-reducing medications. For OA, NSAIDS like ibuprofen can help, and in severe cases, opiate medications may be used. Side effects of these drugs can include stomach ulcers and liver problems. For RA, NSAIDS can help reduce pain but aren’t usually strong enough. Immune modulating drugs like methotrexate and adalimumab are common and come with severe side effects.
Naturopathic medicine has several treatment strategies for both kinds of arthritis. The focus for both is on decreasing inflammation, in your joints and in your whole body- we don’t want you going through it any longer than you have to!