Arthritis is truly a universal illness like hypertension, diabetes, obesity and digestive disorder–a disease of the unhealthy lifestyle of the modern world. Prevention of arthritis is actually better than cure, although all forms of arthritis can be treated.
Arthritis is the inflammation of a joint. There are many types and as many as 96 have been identified. When a joint becomes arthritic there will be swelling and damage to underlying tissue. Pain and stiffness are most common symptoms one experiences. As the disease progress, the range of motion gradually diminishes with the joint becoming increasingly stiff. Once the joint becomes stiff the muscles around it are not exercised adequately and they shrink in size resulting in muscular weakness known as disuse atrophy. This in turn leads to increased risk of injury to joints and the arthritic condition aggravates. Current enthusiasm for running, aerobics, jogging for pleasure and fitness also result in some musculoskeletal problems.
How does the joint work?
Before going into the details about arthritis, let us take a look at how a joint works. There are several types of joints in the body. Some are highly mobile, some stable and mobile and some immobile. What is amazing about the human body is its architectural arrangement of bones, muscles and joints strong enough to support its weight, rigid enough to protect soft internal organs, flexible enough to provide the agility that ensures man’s survival.
Although the joint formation varies with the types of joint, most joints are made up of the same elements. The joint is enclosed in a tough fibrous capsule of connective tissue which secretes a fluid, the synovial fluid, which lubricates the moving parts. Outside this capsule the fibrous anchors, called ligaments, surround the joint and link the two bones protecting the capsule and keeping the movements of the joint within safe limit. An American novelist Herman Melville observed: “The human body is like a ship, its bones being the stiff rigging and the tendons are small running ropes that manage all the motions.”
What can go wrong with a joint?
The simplest example is a sprain, an ankle injury caused by a twist. The joint becomes swollen with fluid, the blood supply to the part increases and it becomes warm and painful. Movements become restricted because of swelling and pain. In fracture of the bone, even if pain is not severe, one feels instinctively that one should avoid putting weight on it. A sprain becomes better after sometime and fracture takes time to heal. During an attack of gout, the joint is inflammed and in rheumatoid arthritis there is no such obvious reason and the disease itself appears to be the source of inflammation.