| Arthritis and Physical Activity
Scott Mair, Director of Educational Services, The Arthritis Society, Alberta and NWT Division
Volume 2, No.4 October 1999
There Are Over 115 Types of Arthritis! This is a fact not widely known. Whereas osteoarthritis and rheumatiod arthritis may sound familiar, gout, lupus and carpal tunnel syndrome are forms of arthritis as well. There are also types that most people have never heard of before: polymyalgia rheumatica, ankylosing spondylitis, and Raynaud’s, Reiter’s and Felty syndromes, to name a few.
The word arthritis is derived from Latin roots that mean inflamed (itis) joint (arth). However, joints aren’t always involved. Scleroderma for example, affects the skin but may also involve the kidneys, bowels, lungs and joints. Polymyalgia rhematica involves inflammation of the blood vessels and can have severely debilitating effects.
Basically, each major type of arthritis involves a different type of tissue. Osteoarthritis, the most common form of the disease affecting 1 in 10 Albertans (Arthroscope 1998, Arthritis Society) involves the breakdown of cartilage. Rheumatiod arthritis begins with inflammation of the synovial membrane of the joints and may spread to other joint tissues and affects one per cent of the population. In ankylosing spondylitis inflammation of the ligament attachment to the bones of the spine and hips can lead to bony overgrowth that can eventually fuse the vertebrae into a single, immovable unit.
How Do You Get Arthritis? No one really knows. Genetics probably plays a part. Arthritis can run in families and genetic markers associated with an increased risk for developing rheumatoid arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis have been identified. Previous damage to a joint may also be a contributing factor. Research is being conducted to explore the possibility that infectious agents or an environmental trigger may initiate the inflammatory process in several forms of arthritis.
Who gets Arthritis? Anyone can: children, teenagers, young adults and older people. Arthritis is not just your grandmother’s problem. One in ten Canadians have
arthritis (Arthroscope 1998, Arthritis Society). The cost to our economy is almost 17 billion dollars.
Is There a Cure? Most forms of arthritis are chronic and may last a lifetime. A variety of treatments can control the pain and minimize joint damage for most people. But, everyone’s arthritis is different. What will work for one may not work for another.
Range of motion exercises help to reduce stiffness and keep joints flexible. The range of motion is the normal distance your joints can move in certain directions. They should be done smoothly, three to ten times each, usually everyday. These exercises should be performed before any more vigorous type of exercise.
When an arthritis patient can do fifteen minutes of continuous range of motion exercise they will have the motion and endurance required to add strengthening and aerobic exercise to their fitness program. It is important to note that daily activity should not replace range of motion exercises.
The most common risk of exercise is working the joints and muscles too much. If pain in the joint persists for longer than two hours after exercise you should cutback on the amount of exercise being done.
Remember, exercise is only one part of a treatment program that also includes proper diagnosis by a doctor, medication, proper diet, rest and relaxation, splints in some cases, conserving energy; and heat and cold treatments.
The Warning Signs of Arthritis