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Arthritis How to Get a HANDle on It

Our hands are one of the most expressive parts of our body. We use them to convey emotion, strength and creativity. Similar to our faces, if we have an abnormality of our hands it is difficult to hide and can cause immense emotional distress. Paramount to our hand function is our knuckles; these are the joints within our hands that allow our fingers to bend into a fist. The word knuckle comes from the Middle English word knokel which anatomically refers to the metacarpophalangeal and the interphalangeal joints. Often the knuckles can be the first areas affected by underlying arthritic conditions. When I first see a patient with a hand complaint how the hands look can leave a lasting impression and help lead me towards a diagnosis. I have read that when encountering a patients rheumatologists often focus on 3 factors whether the any swelling is the same on both hands, whether the hands are excessively warm and swollen which can be signs of inflammation and whether the person feels pain when you shake their hand indicating inflammation and a possible loss of function. The conditions that are more typically symmetrical (both sides) are Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) and Osteoarthritis (OA) whereas psoriatic and infectious arthritis are more typically asymmetrical. In cases of RA, patients can often present with morning joint stiffness, pain and tenderness of the joints of the hands. Longer term patients may suffer from a partial or full dislocation of the radius and ulnar bones at the wrist (distal radioulnar joint). These long term damages to joints are often a result of treatment delays. There is thought to be an average of 5 years between the onset of symptoms and the start of treatment with disease based medications. The current thinking within the medical field (and the Osteopathic field hopefully) is that early aggressive therapy (both physical and medical) can work to prevent unnecessary pain and disability in patients with RA. Hopefully the days of gnarled hands are gone. Along with RA one of the most common causes of symmetric joint swelling is Osteoarthritis. OA more typically presents in the joints closest to the finger tips (distal interphalangeal joints). The cartilage of the effected joint begins to breakdown due to biochemical changes, the membranes lining the joint may become inflamed leading to local erosions. The most common symptom of OA is pain within the joint however joint movement can be effected with muscle and tendon changes occurring around the joint. While we have traditionally thought of OA as being a normal part of the aging process more and more research is noting a trend towards younger sufferers. Rather than the normal aging process, complex factors may be at work to effect the destruction, restoration and remodelling of joints. These factors are now thought to be at a cellular and molecular level which affects the internal equilibrium of the body causing the imbalance that can trigger the OA cycle. Genetic studies in humans, along with mouse models, have identified pathways that are important in skeletal development and the biology and pathology of articular cartilage. These studies will hopefully pave the way for future prevention or treatment of osteoarthritis. All this makes for very interesting reading, however if you have arthritis in any part of your body what can you do to help yourself? Firstly make sure your environment is supporting you properly. Getting to grips with how to modify surroundings is vitally important. An occupational therapist can give advice on getting appropriate gadgets that will help to make your life easier. These may include: ergonomic cutlery, kettle tippers, bath rails, grabbers, walkers and stair lifts.

Contact Lindlay Horner, Founder of The Maple Clinic for more information: http://www.themapleclinic.com 121 Hever Avenue, West Kingsdown, Sevenoaks, TN15 6DT Email: info@themapleclinic.com - Tel: 01474 850500 The Maple Clinic Ltd. Reg No. 4122073 (article syndicated by Biz4Web http://www.biz4web.com)

Secondly make sure you stay active. Exercise is especially important for people with arthritis. It can help to reduce pain and increase mobility. Exercise also helps to build strong muscles around the joints and increases flexibility and endurance. It reduces inflammation from arthritis and related conditions and reduces the risk of other chronic conditions. It also helps promote overall health and fitness by giving you more energy, helping you sleep better, controlling your weight, decreasing depression, and giving you more self-esteem. Furthermore, exercise can help stave off other health problems such as osteoporosis and heart disease. If you are in pain often people find it easier to start with water based exercise. The most important thing is to start slowly and make it fun. Thirdly, get some treatment. When patients come to see me we work on their posture and use a variety of techniques to increase the range of motion available to effected joint. We will also assess and treat non effected joints to ensure that altered posture and walking movement dont over load other areas. Massage will help alleviate muscle tensions. Acupuncture can help ease the pain associated with arthritis. At home I may have a patient use hydrotherapy hot or cold packs or even recommend a TENs machine for pain relief. All in all until new research leads to better treatment protocols for arthritis sufferers, a little bit of everything is essential to keep a good quality of life. If you would like to find out more please contact Lindlay Horner at The Maple Clinic Web: http://www.themapleclinic.com Email: info@themapleclinic.com Tel: 01474 850500

Contact Lindlay Horner, Founder of The Maple Clinic for more information: http://www.themapleclinic.com 121 Hever Avenue, West Kingsdown, Sevenoaks, TN15 6DT Email: info@themapleclinic.com - Tel: 01474 850500 The Maple Clinic Ltd. Reg No. 4122073 (article syndicated by Biz4Web http://www.biz4web.com)