Arthritis is becoming a growing problem in our society as it is estimated that 22.7 percent of the population suffers from Arthritis according to the Arthritis Foundation. It is estimated that these numbers will continue to rise over the next 15 years as well. As Arthritis is growing more prevalent it is important to help understand the signs and symptoms and differences between the different types of arthritis. The two most prevalent types of arthritis in the United States are Osteoarthritis (OA) and Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) while other less common forms include Ankylosing Spondylitis and Psoriatic Arthritis.
Osteoarthritis is a degenerative type of arthritis that often results from a history of trauma, or repetitive trauma to a joint. Recent research has also pointed to several genes that may predispose one to arthritis. Some new research also is pointing to the fact that about 15 to 20 years following a traumatic knee injury such as ACL tear or Meniscus tear 50% of patients develop OA. The most typical signs and symptoms of OA are inflammation of joints and stiffness of joints. With OA these are often non-symmetric from right to left and affect a wide variety of joints throughout the body. Pain may vary from person to person, but typically are better with regular anti-inflammatory drugs and regular physical activity.
Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic condition that affects approximately 1% of the population in the US. Dr. Joshua Sundhar, Rheumatologist from Arthritis, Rheumatic and Back Disease Associates states that “the exact cause is not known, but we do know that the immune system is mistakenly attacking the joints.
RA typically affects the small joints of the hands and feet, but can progress to involve larger joints such as the shoulders and knees. Symptoms of RA include pain, swelling and stiffness that is worse in the morning and steadily improves as the day goes on.” Dr. Sundhar goes on to explain that “it can be challenging to diagnose RA, as the symptoms may be very subtle at the onset.”
Finding a rheumatologist to determine which type of arthritis is causing a patient’s joint pain, is essential to improving mobility and overall quality of life. Fortunately, through extensive research over the last few decades, there have been numerous developments in the treatment of RA. Along with regular physical activity, a rheumatologist and a physical therapist can work together with you to prescribe specific exercises to help reduce pain, improve your mobility, and most importantly, prevent permanent joint damage.
DR. JEFF RUTH, PT, DPT, CSCS DR. JODI GOLDMAN PT, DPT, CERT MDT, LSVT BIG DR. LANCE KNAUB PT, DPT, OCS, CSCS