Arthritis – What is it?

Demystifying arthritis and its management.  

Arthritis is a word that we hear often. Your doctor might have even told you, you have it. But what is arthritis? Is it inevitable? Can anything be done about it once you have it? Because arthritis isn’t life threatening, physicians (and those affected) often dismiss it as aches and pains, and the inevitable part of aging. As a result, individuals with arthritis fail to receive the appropriate care and information regarding their condition

Arthritis (arth=joint; itis = inflammation) is a disease of the joints and surrounding tissue. It is not an “old person’s disease” – in fact, 3 out of 5 people with arthritis are younger than 65.

The 2 most common types of arthritis are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.


Osteoarthritis (OA) is a type of joint disease that results from the breakdown of joint cartilage and underlying bone. It is caused by mechanical stress on the joint and thus, can be prevented, to some extent. The most common symptoms are joint pain and stiffness. Initially, symptoms may occur only following exercise or certain movements, but over time may become constant. Other symptoms sometimes include joint swelling and decreased range of motion. When severe and affecting the spine, arthritis can cause neurological symptoms such as weakness or numbness in the arms or legs.

The most commonly involved joints are the joints in the fingers, at the base of the thumb, and weight-bearing joints in the neck, lower back, knee, and hips. Joints on one side of the body are often more affected than those on the other. Hip osteoarthritis, for example, is often more severe on one side than the other and can be the result of uneven leg lengths or improper pelvic biomechanics. Usually, the symptoms come on over years. It can affect work and normal daily activities. Unlike other types of arthritis, only the joints are typically affected.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA), on the other hand, is a long-term autoimmune disorder that primarily affects joints. It typically results in warm, swollen, and painful joints. Pain and stiffness often worsen following rest and can be severe first thing in the morning.  Most commonly, the wrist and hands are involved, with the same joints typically involved on both sides of the body (unlike osteoarthritis). The disease may also affect other parts of the body. This may result in a low red blood cell count, inflammation around the lungs, and inflammation around the heart. Fever and low energy may also be present. Often, symptoms come on gradually over weeks to months, quicker than osteoarthritis.

Prevention and Treatment of Osteoarthritis

  • Avoid excessive strain on joints by adopting a good posture and consulting with a chiropractor to detect early degenerative changes.
  • Maintain a healthy weight to avoid putting extra stress on your weight-bearing joints.
  • Warm-up and cool-down before and after exercising.
  • Apply ice after injuries, not heat.
  • Wearing proper shoes and using aids such as canes or walkers can also take off some of the strain.
  • Exercise in water may reduce pain and disability, and increase quality of life in the short term for people with hip and knee osteoarthritis,
  • Aerobics and walking reduce pain and improve physical functioning better in the long term for people with knee osteoarthritis.
  • Eat anti-inflammatory foods and avoid pro-inflammatory foods.

Your health care team plays a critical role in the treatment and management of your arthritis. Our collaborative approach to chiropractic care within the Ottawa health and medical community is about putting patients first. We believe this collaborative effort advances the quality of care in family health and wellness in communities and results in excellent care for all. Talk to your chiropractor about how they can help you better manage and understand your arthritis along with your healthcare team.

To book an appointment, call 613.860.8600 for our Byward location, and 613.237.9000 for our Glebe location.