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When most of us think of arthritis, we generally think about osteoarthritis. But did you know that there are more than 100 kinds of arthritis!? The Arthritis society reports that one in six Canadians suffers from arthritis, and predicts that by 2036, that number will increase to one in five Canadians.

What exactly is arthritis?

Simply put, arthritis is inflammation of a joint. Within a healthy joint, cartilage helps with shock absorption from physical movement and allows bones to glide smoothly over one another. In osteoarthritis, the most common type, this cartilage breaks down and wears away which results in the bones rubbing together. With time, this rubbing causes the bone to change shape which eventually leads to loss of range of motion and inflammation.

There are several factors that are believed to influence the development of arthritis including genetics, previous injuries/trauma, weight, and stress on the joints from jobs, activities, or hobbies.

How do I know if I have arthritis?

Osteoarthritis affects everyone differently. Sometimes it can progress slowly; sometimes quickly. It can present with next-to-no symptoms, but can also be quite disabling. Osteoarthritis can occur in any joint in the body, but usually affects the hips, knees, hands, back, and neck. For example, the hands may develop small, bony knobs on the fingers, become crooked and enlarged, becoming stiff and achy. The knees may become stiff, swollen, and sore which make it difficult to walk, climb stairs, and bend down. When the hips are affected, people usually feel pain in their groin, thighs, or knees and find daily activities such as dressing, walking, and bending a challenge.

You can use this helpful symptom checker from the Arthritis Society.

I’ve been told I have arthritis, now what?

Do not fear! Physiotherapists can help! Physiotherapists are health care professionals trained in the assessment and treatment of the symptoms of arthritis. Together with your Physiotherapist at Avenue Physiotherapy, we will develop an individualized treatment program that will help decrease pain, improve posture and mobility, strengthen muscles, and most importantly help you function in your day to day independently! There is often the misconception that if you have osteoarthritis you should avoid any activities that will increase the “wear and tear” on the joint; In fact, exercise (a tailored program) can do wonders to strengthen a joint and decrease pain. We can help you find the balance between strengthening the muscles and not irritating the joint. Not only can this physical activity help with your joint stiffness and pain, but can help to improve your overall cardiovascular system and health.

Here are some other tips to help you manage your arthritis along the way:

– Respect pain; don’t keep dismissing the discomfort and be sure to rest when you need to
– Maintain a healthy body weight
– Use good body mechanics to avoid over-stressing joints
– Use braces or walking aids if necessary
– Keep moving! Regular low-impact activity is often recommend (such as swimming and cycling)

Need some help with getting started on these tips? Come see us at Avenue Physiotherapy!