Arthritis causes painful, stiff and swollen joints, which may become deformed. Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is very common also, especially in women. Infections, psoriasis and gout are less usual causes of arthritis. In osteoarthritis, this fails to keep up with joint wear and tear, and eventually, degenerative changes occur. Cartilage, the silky tissue which allows joints to glide smoothly, erodes until bone is literally rubbing on bone.
Rheumatoid arthritis, on the other hand, is believed to be an auto-immune disease. This means your immune system is mistakenly attacking your own joint tissue. The synovial membrane, which lines the joint, thickens and invade it, and cartilage and bone eventually wear away. Where osteoarthritis often affects only one joint at a time, especially the hip or knee, in RA the inflammation is likely to be symmetrical. So if your left wrist is affected, your right probably is too, perhaps with both ankles as well. RA affects your whole body, and during flare-ups you may be weak and feverish. It may even affect your heart, eyes and lungs. New drugs called DMARDS help control complications, but disability often remains.
But there’s good news on the horizon. This January, results of a research trial called SARAH (Stretching and Strengthening for RA of the Hand) were published, showing more than double the improvement in hand use when this exercise therapy was added to the DMARD treatment.
Here at Pain Remedial Clinic, we offer this and other therapies for arthritis. If you’re in Cavan or Navan and feeling like the Tin Man from the Wizard of Oz, don’t despair: there’s help out there!