Arthritis literally means “inflammation of a joint”. There are more than 100 different types of arthritis but osteoarthritis is the most common. According to the NZ Ministry of Health, arthritis is the single greatest cause of disability in New Zealand.
More than half a million people will be affected by arthritis during their lifetime. In the USA, of the 27 million people with osteoarthritis almost 60% are women.
The two most common forms of arthritis are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis and gout.
Osteoarthritis affects your joints. All joints have a cartilage, which is like a cushion that protects the end of the bones. With osteoarthritis, the cartilage breaks down so it doesn’t cushion the bones properly and in severe cases the bones will grind against each other.
Osteoarthritis progresses slowly and may begin with a minor trauma or repeated injury to a joint. It normally affects feet, knees, lower back, hips and fingers. You are more likely to get osteoarthritis as you get older – it is very common in the over 65 age group.
Osteoarthritis is most common in the back, knees, hips and fingers. The symptoms will often get worse as the day goes on.
- If you are overweight, losing weight can help protect your joints from being overworked.
- Physical therapy to keep your joints mobile can be helpful.
- Pain relief medication includes paracetamol and anti-inflammatories.
- Surgery may be needed to repair or replace damaged joints.
- Walking sticks and splints can help if your leg joints are affected.
- Rheumatoid arthritis is often treated with other medications that stop your immune system from harming your joints. These are called disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDS), and include methotrexate, salazopyrine, plaquenil, prednisone and leflunamide.
Keeping a healthy weight will reduce the risk of osteoarthritis. Stretching and gentle water activities will help. It is not known what causes rheumatoid arthritis, or how it can be prevented.
Explore the Stretch for Life program and find a gentle and rewarding stretching routine that best suits you.