What does getting older mean to you?
We all have fears about getting older, especially when words like “arthritis” and “osteoarthritis” are thrown around. These words needlessly scare so many people into thinking that they can no longer do activities that they enjoy as part of their day-to-day life.
People are lead to believe that there is nothing that can be done to ease the aches or discomfort, other than accept that they are “not getting any younger” or “over the hill”.
There is something about this way of thinking that causes people to miss out on life and activities. Minding the grandkids, going on holidays or enjoying a nice forest walk become a worry, unsure if doing these things will do more harm than good.
“The truth of it is that arthritis is a misunderstood condition, often overlooked or ignored“.
Given that over 10 million people suffer with arthritic conditions in Ireland and the UK, having a better understanding of it may help you or someone you care dearly about.
What is Arthritis?
Good question! As it is not one specific condition. Arthritis is a group of conditions affecting bones, muscles and joints all over the body. The most common types of arthritis are Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid arthritis.
Osteoarthritis occurs when the lining of your joints also known as cartilage begins to wear away, hence the classic saying “wear and tear”. Whereas Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune condition which means that the body’s immune system attacks itself causing inflammation and swelling within certain joints.
Symptoms vary depending on the type of arthritis present but generally include one or more of the following:
- Joint pain
- Joint swelling
- Stiffness – particularly in the morning
- Reduced mobility
- Clicking sensation within the joints
Arthritis can start suddenly and without cause at any age – it is not just specific to getting older. However, it appears that certain factors can put you at a higher risk including:
- Overuse e.g. from a physically demanding job.
- Family history.
- Previous trauma to a joint e.g a fall or a fracture.
While there is no cure at the moment there are many different ways of taking charge of your health and mobility including diet, exercise and manual therapy.
That’s where Osteopathy comes in!
Whilst osteopathic treatment cannot cure arthritis, it can treat the symtpoms that are associated with it.
Soft tissue techniques can be used to help loosen tight muscles surrounding the affected joints. Gentle joint mobilisation and traction can be used to help reduce swelling by encouraging fluid drainage and improving how the affected joints move.
Generally, if you have pain or discomfort in a joint or joints, you will change the way that you move. Osteopaths like to look at how the body moves as a whole – assessing other areas away from the affected joints to see if your body is compensating, creating other strain patterns elsewhere which may further be aggravating your symptoms.
We can also provide you with strengthening exercises for muscles that may have become weak. These can be done in the comfort of your own home without any expensive gym memberships or fancy equipment!
- Stay active! I am a firm believer in the age-old saying “move it or lose it”. Don’t shy away from movement, staying sedentary will only cause you to seize up quicker.
- Chose non-impact exercises that aren’t too hard on your joints such as swimming or cycling.
- Regular treatment – yes I know this is a shameless plug, but having regular treatments can help slow the progression of arthritis. It can really help to have someone keep an eye on your progression and give you some accountability to keep active and focus on stretching and mobility work.
- Positive mindset! Everybody has a certain degree of arthritic changes in their joints, these can begin as early as twenties onwards. Remember with early intervention and proper management you can live life to the fullest with good mobility and pain relief.
For more information and support visit Arthritis Research UK to download your free booklet about Arthritis.