Avin Patel

Arthritic Pain

Osteoarthritis and associated arthritic pain can affect any joint in the body where there is a cartilage covered bone. Commonly it affects joints of the hands or feet, spine, shoulders, hips, and knees.

Arthritic Pain

Why is arthritis painful?

Some of the pain actually comes from the body’s attempts to protect itself from discomfort. When arthritis affects part of a joint surface, it becomes uncomfortable to move through that range. Rather than purely stopping a movement at that painful range, the body tries to find a way around it. This might mean changes to posture or the way you walk, which in turn asks more of other muscles and joints.

So alongside the arthritic pain itself, you feel the strain of muscles and otherwise healthy joints having to behave differently. If the muscles that act on the joint itself get tight to try and protect the joint, they can actually cause it to become more stiff. In later stage arthritis, the space within the joint reduces. Muscles around it holding it even tighter doesn’t help the cartilage to recover.

In more advanced arthritis, pieces of cartilage can break off within the joint and “catch” on movement. The catching is usually quite unpredictable as the cartilage floats loose within the joint, so it’s hard to anticipate and prevent the pain. This in turn can lead to more compensation as the body tries to prevent any painful movement.

What can we do for arthritic pain?

To ease the symptoms of arthritis, you need to manage both the effects of the changes within the joints, and the body’s reaction to them.

Cartilage is happiest when it’s being compressed and decompressed fully. This allows waste products to be squeezed out to make room for nutrients to enter it. However, when a joint has a painful range, the body will avoid moving through that full range and pumping the cartilage as it should. It can take some work to encourage the body to move normally again.

During treatments with your osteopath, we can use gentle movements to convince the body that it is safe to move how it used to. This starts the process of compressing and decompressing the cartilage again, meaning the environment around the cartilage is already more healthy after the first treatment. Over time, and with exercise, the cartilage is given the best chance it can have to heal, or at least slow the progress of arthritis.

Your osteopath will also work to ease off the over-protective muscles that might be holding the joint stiff. If other areas are adapting as mentioned above, this can also be addressed.

Arthritis is not something you just have to live with until you can get a joint replacement! Book now to start getting your movement back.

Hip & Knee Arthritis

Arthritis often affects the hip and knee joints.

The basic progression of osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is the wear, tear, and repair process on cartilage.

  1. Mild injury or discomfort causes subtle changes to the movement in a joint
  2. This develops into an avoidance of a certain part of the joint
  3. The cartilage there is no longer being compressed and decompressed as normal. This means nutrients are not being squeezed into the tissue and waste products are not being squeezed out. The health of this cartilage declines
  4. To avoid the pain of moving over rough cartilage, the body further limits movement.

So although the body tries to protect itself, it actually allows the arthritis to develop further. This is not a prognosis that needs to continue: your osteopath can help.

Arthritis in the hips and hands

Knee arthritis

The knee is actually made of three joints:

  1. The main hinge joint
  2. The joint between the knee cap and the hinge joint (patellofemoral joint)
  3. The two shin bones: tibia and fibula (superior tibia-fibula joint

Any of the three can develop arthritis. It can be particularly easy to spot when it affects the joint behind the knee cap.

Knees are normally quite crunchy joints, but this is more obvious in an arthritic knee. A healthy crunchy knee might make noise but it won’t catch or feel stiff on movement.

To try and protect the knee, the body might tighten the quadriceps muscles. Again, that isn’t really helpful. The quadriceps attach to the knee cap, so when they get tight they pull on the joint they want to protect. This can cause more pain and change the way a person moves. The cycle of restriction and poor joint health continues.

Fortunately, this joint is really responsive to osteopathic treatment. If you have arthritic knees, you might be able to see progress from the first appointment.

Mechanical compensation for hip arthritis

Postural changes due to hip osteoarthritis

When osteoarthritis develops in the hip, it can lead to a total change in posture. Typically it affects the back of the joint first, and the body might react to this before you’re conscious of any problem. In order to prevent pain, the body avoids taking the hip back as far as it can. This means strides should be shorter when walking, for example, because the leg doesn’t go back as far as it used to.

But the body is clever and it finds a way around this problem. The solution is The Elderly Posture.

If you bend slightly forward at the hip, you can take steps the same length as normal but without that painful extension. You go further into flexion than you normally would, but don’t have to go past neutral when it comes to extension! To avoid falling over, the body has to compensate higher up. This could mean leaning back through the spine, or sometimes just lifting the head through the neck.

But of course there are side effects to this, apart from suddenly moving like you’re 20 years older. Failure to move through the arthritic part of the joint means failure to bring nutrition to where it is needed most. The joint continues to develop arthritis until movement does become painful. Load is also redistributed through the areas that are compensating. Holding your head up all day is hard work, and the neck is not designed for it.

If you’re already at this point, osteopathy can help, but prevention is better than cure. Catch the arthritis early and you’ll be in a much better position, literally and figuratively! Contrary to popular belief, osteoarthritis can be managed before the need for a joint replacement.

Address your arthritis as soon as you spot it. Book an appointment today.