What is Arthritis?

Thomas Tung

/ Physiotherapist

In the joints of our body – where bone meets bone, there is a layer of smooth tissue called “cartilage” which is covered in a lubricating “joint fluid”. This allows the bones to glide smoothly across each other without friction. There are diseases that affect the cartilage and these are known as arthritis. When the cartilage is affected – this will cause bone to rub on bone causing irritation and pain.


What kinds of arthritis are there?

Osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis are the most common forms. There are other less common types of arthritis that affect the body’s joints (like gout), and there are also conditions that are associated with arthritis (like bursitis).


What is Osteoarthritis?

As you grow older, cartilage will wear away as pressure is put through it from every day activities. Knees are often affected by walking and standing, hands can be affected by repetitive work and shoulders are often worn by lifting and overhead activities. When cartilage is worn away in this manner, it is called Osteoarthritis.


What is Rheumatoid Arthritis?

People with Rheumatic disorders have an inflammatory condition. Sometimes this inflammation will affect the joint and cartilage and cause Rheumatoid Arthritis.


What are the symptoms of arthritis?

Joint pain (most commonly the knees, shoulders, neck, hands and hips), grinding/crackling sensation when you move, increased ache when you wake up in the morning or after sitting for a long time.


What can I do for arthritis?

Exercise is very important for arthritis – as strong muscles can carry some of the load that might cause pressure in the joint. In the past I have treated patients who have been diagnosed with arthritis, but not felt the effects of it for years after the diagnosis. This is because they had muscles strong enough to compensate for their cartilage being impaired. Massage can also be effective to ease muscles and relieve pressure in the joint.


What kinds of exercise are good for arthritis?

The main exercise that is recommended for sufferers of arthritis is cycling, and the main exercise that is discouraged is running/jogging. This is because running involves your feet hitting a hard surface (often concrete footpaths or treadmill surface) – which is known as a “high impact” activity. High impact activities tend to cause more force to come through our bones and joints. Cycling is preferable as your feet are not hitting a particular surface, but the muscles are still working. There are also many other exercises that a physio can prescribe to help with arthritis.