What is arthritis?

Arthritis is one of most common medical conditions in the UK and worldwide which causes long term disability in people aged 50 and over.

Arthritis is an umbrella term for a range of conditions which cause pain and swelling of the joints. These conditions occur as a result of damage or wear and tear on the body and are more prevalent over time.

The body is a superb piece of machinery which works very well on a daily basis but like any machine, is prone to niggles and problems over time. Things can and do go wrong.

One of these ‘problems’is arthritis. There are more than 100 different types of arthritis, each with their own individual cause.

Find out more about these in our types of arthritis section.

This section is arranged as thus:

  • Arthritis caused by wear and tear
  • Arthritis as part of the ageing process
  • Arthritis and sport
  • Arthritis conclusions

Arthritis caused by wear and tear

One way of approaching this is to think of arthritis as something which happens later on in life as a result of the frequent demands placed upon the body. This is not a problem in your youth as your body is adept at dealing with these stresses and strains and bounces back as good as new.

But a serious illness or injury or repeated stresses can cause long term problems and increase the risk of conditions such as arthritis. This is usually the case with conditions such as osteoarthritis which is the most common type of arthritis in the UK and occurs as a result of wear and tear on the body.

This is often the reason why arthritis happens: if you have spent most of your life doing a physical job or a contact sport such as football then perhaps it is not surprising that conditions like this do occur.

Arthritis as part of the ageing process

If you have put your body under a great deal of strain then as resilient as it is, it will only take so much of this before it starts to break down. Short term pressure is fine and your body is able to cope with this: but this not the case with long term pressure or a severe injury which may prove to be too much for the body to handle.

Plus there is the undeniable fact that our bodies start to wear out later on in life which is reflected in the ageing process. Joints stiffen and start to creak and we lose a great deal of flexibility and mobility as well.

To refer to the machine analogy: if you use something repeatedly then there is always a chance that it will break down or start to wear out.

Machines start to show their age in much the same way people do. The body becomes less effective at dealing with injury, illness or disease and this manifests itself in chronic progressive conditions such as arthritis.

However you have lived your life the results of this are reflected in how well (or not) your joints work. Arthritis is a sign that your joints have taken a bit of a battering over the years and are informing you of this in a rather painful manner.

Arthritis and sport

Sport has many positive aspects which include health and fitness, improved confidence and self-esteem and interaction with others. Many people enjoy the camaraderie and sense of belonging especially with team sports.

But one aspect of sport especially competitive sport is injuries. Most people who play sport are all too aware of this and take steps to try and minimise their risk of an injury.

Top level sports people such as athletes or footballers push their bodies to the limits in order to be the best at their chosen sport which often has long term repercussions.

The body is very efficient at repairing itself but recurring injuries and the ageing process take its toll which results in conditions such as arthritis.

It is not uncommon to read about famous sports people who have developed arthritis long after their career has ended which is due to the many injuries and other strains placed upon their bodies. This is something many sportsmen/women are aware of but are prepared to take the risk in the pursuit of sporting excellence.

This is something to be aware of if you take part in sport.

Arthritis conclusions

There are so many variables associated with arthritis which include the ageing process, injury, e.g. sport, or autoimmune illnesses which cause the body to turn on itself leading to arthritis.

Genetics is another factor. On theory is that certain people are prone to developing arthritis due to a family history of this although more research is needed to support or disprove this.

As a result of these and many other factors it is difficult to pinpoint an exact cause, or causes of arthritis which means that a cure still remains out of reach.

But there are a vast range of treatments available which can help with the management of arthritis. Plus there is research dedicated to finding a cure as well as new forms of treatment for arthritis so it is important to remain positive about this.

This guide is here to help you learn more about your condition and how it can be controlled. Whilst it does not offer a cure it does offer support and advice which can go a long way to easing the problem.

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