Doctors' Choice Physical Medicine

The Three Stages of Arthritis in Schuylkill County

“I have arthritis; there is nothing you could do for it”. I hear this almost every day.   It is so sad when patients say that because they have been so misinformed.

Types Of Arthritis

Arthritis: I just have to live with it

There are many different types of arthritis, but I am going to limit this article to osteoarthritis, because by far it is the most common type.  More than half of arthritics have this type.  Statistically speaking it affects 1 in 13 people.  It is probably higher in Schuylkill County because of our aged population.  That means there are about 12,000 to 13,000 with osteoarthritis in Schuylkill County.

Common Arthritis Areas

If you are arthritic, you may feel the ache, pain, and stiffness in any of your joints, but most commonly in your hips, knees, back, neck, or fingers.  Risk factors for osteoarthritis include:

The first three alters normal biomechanics, in other words arthritics move differently.  Think of your body frame as the frame of a car and the tires as your joints.  If the car frame is bent, the car can still run but very soon, the tires wear out.  At first, it might be hard to see the increase wear on the tires but it is happening.  This will eventually lead to the tire going flat or blowing out.

In your body, if the frame is bent or dysfunctional the joints wear out just the same way the tires do.  You never saw anyone with arthritis walk without a gimp or abnormal gait, did you?

Arthritis Phase One: Dysfunction

Dysfunction occurs when there is injury to a joint or body frame.  Muscle tightness and shortness follows leading to restricted movement.  Muscles opposing the tight and shortened muscles usually become weak.  At this stage, people generally only complain of stiffness or tightness.  With time, a slight misalignment occurs at the joint and scar tissue begins to form.

Arthritis Phase Two: Instability

Prolonged dysfunction and scar tissue (which is weaker than then original tissue) leads to instability or loosening of the joint.  Because the joint is weaker, it is not stable.  There is an increased risk for additional injury; inflammation, pain, and increased muscle tightness as the muscle try to provide the stability of the weakened ligaments.  At this point, you might be aware of clicking or shifting of the joint with certain movements.  X-rays are still normal.

Arthritis Phase Three: Stabilization

At this stage, degenerative changes begin to appear.  Decreased joint space and bone spurs will start to show up on x-rays.  There is also thickening of scar tissue and the muscles even become tighter and shorter.  This is the body’s attempt to tighten up the loose joint.  Decreased motion leads to increased pain.

Arthritis Treatment

According to PubMed Heath, a division of the U.S National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health “It is possible to greatly improve your symptoms from osteoarthritis and other long-term types of arthritis without medications.  In fact, making lifestyle changes without medications is preferable for osteoarthritis and other forms of joint inflammation.  If needed, medications should be used in addition to lifestyle changes.”

Restoring joint motion and balancing the muscles (lengthening the shortened and strengthening the weak muscles) is a critical first step.  Exercise for arthritis is necessary to maintain healthy joints, relieve stiffness, reduce pain and fatigue, and improve muscle and bone strength.  Your exercise program must be tailored to you as an individual.  For example, not all knee arthritis has the same shortened and weakened muscles.  All joint dysfunctions are unique.  A general exercise program will not work very well.  See how well this worked for Rae.

At our office, we use the Functional Movement Evaluation of the National Academy of Sports Medicine to determine the muscle imbalances and treatment protocol.  One of the cutting-edge exercises we use is Whole Body Vibration (WBV).  It helps relax the tight muscles and strengthens the weak muscles without any movement to the arthritic joint.  We had patients as old as 96 on the WBV machine to exercise.  Most people cannot believe how much better they feel in just a few weeks.  Contrary to what most people think, there is a lot that can be done for arthritis, especially without all the side effects of medications.

We are committed to help you or a loved one that is suffering with arthritis and sharing this information may be one of the most evident acts of kindness you can give.

This information is solely advisory and should not be substituted for medical or chiropractic advice.  Any and all health concerns, decisions, and actions must be done through the advice and counsel of a health care professional who is familiar with your medical history.