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The Two Types Of Arthritis

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By Dr. Tanvi Tijoriwala, ND 

 When there is persistent joint pain occurring in one or more of our joints, we often term that condition as arthritis. That is because arthritis when defined means “the pain, stiffness and inflammation of joints.”

But did you know there are many types of arthritis?

 In this article, we discuss two of the most common types of arthritis, Rheumatoid arthritis and Osteoarthritis. They may both show up as pain in the joints however, the root cause of these conditions and how they are treated naturopathically are very different.                                                                                                         

Osteoarthritis:

What is it?

Osteoarthritis (OA) is the typical arthritis you see in older individuals. It is usually caused because of overuse of certain joints that develops over a long period of time.

Osteoarthritis typically presents in one side of the body. For example, if a person has osteoarthritis of the knee, usually only one knee is affected. This is the biggest distinguishing factor from rheumatoid arthritis which typically affects both sides of the joints simultaneously.

With osteoarthritis, people may notice pain and stiff in their joints, but they often do not have any swelling. The pain and stiffness get worse as the day progresses because the joints affected with OA are used during daily activity. 

Osteoarthritis commonly shows up in the finger joints closest to the fingernails, larger joints like the knees and hips or the spine. 

Treatment approach:

Naturopathically, OA can be treated with several different modalities. The main goal of OA treatment is to reduce pain and stiffness in the joint and prevent further wear and tear. Some of the treatments used for OA therapy are:

  •     Acupuncture
  •     Herbal medicine/supplements: Supplements that help protect the joints and prevent further wear and tear as well as supplements that reduce pain and inflammation in the joints.
  •     Exercise therapy: Many exercise therapies such as swimming have shown to help improve OA symptoms such as pain and stiffness.

 

 

Rheumatoid Arthritis: 

What is it?

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is the type of arthritis that can begin at any age. Unlike OA, RA has a more systemic effect because it is autoimmune and inflammatory in nature. Autoimmunity means that our body is negatively affecting its own joints which causes the pain, stiffness and swelling. The stiffness associated with RA is worst in the morning upon waking up.

As mentioned above RA affects both sides of the joints and often involve the wrist, elbows, and fingertips. 

RA is diagnosed through a combination of physical exams, blood tests and imaging. 

Treatment approach:

Naturopathically, there are several factors that are addressed during the treatment of RA.

  •     Stress management: RA has a correlation with experiencing chronic stress. Studies show that the presence of cortisol (the stress hormone) present at high and low quantities can contribute to the inflammation associated with RA. Stress has also been identified as a risk factor for rheumatoid arthritis. 
  •     Nutrition: Research shows that certain foods can be an aggravating factor for rheumatoid arthritis. Modifying dietary habits to include foods that reduce inflammation and avoid foods that promote a proinflammatory state can be beneficial in reducing RA symptoms.
  •     Supplements: While it is important to get most of our nutrition from a healthy diet, supplementation can help correct nutritional deficiencies contributing to RA. Herbal medicine is used to help decrease inflammation as certain herbs have shown to significantly reduce stiffness and pain scores in RA patients. 

 If you suffer from osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis and want more information on natural therapies to reduce pain and stiffness, book an appointment with our naturopathic doctor Dr. Tanvi Tijoriwala, ND here.

 

Quick summary chart:

CharacteristicRheumatoid arthritisOsteoarthritis
Age at which the condition startsIt may begin any time in life.It usually begins later in life.
Speed of onsetRelatively rapid, over weeks to monthsSlow, over years
Joint symptomsJoints are painful, swollen, and stiff.Joints ache and may be tender but have little or no swelling.
Pattern of joints that are affectedIt often affects small and large joints on both sides of the body (symmetrical), such as both hands, both wrists or elbows, or the balls of both feet.Symptoms often begin on one side of the body and may spread to the other side. Symptoms begin gradually and are often limited to one set of joints, usually the finger joints closest to the fingernails or the thumbs, large weight-bearing joints (hips, knees), or the spine.
Duration of morning stiffnessMorning stiffness usually lasts longer than 1 hour.Morning stiffness usually lasts less than 1 hour. Stiffness returns at the end of the day or after periods of activity.
Presence of symptoms affecting the whole body (systemic)Frequent fatigue and a general feeling of being ill are present.Whole-body symptoms are n

Ref: Obtained from the University of Wisconsin, School of Medicine.

 

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