What is arthritis?

Arthritis is musculoskeletal disorder, which affects the joints, resulting in pain, stiffness and inflammation of the joints.  According to the Arthritis Society of Ontario 1.8 million people in Ontario suffer from arthritis.

Arthritis can affect all ages – the old and the very young.

What causes arthritis?

To gain an understanding of how arthritis affects a joint we need to understand the mechanics and structure of a joint.

A joint is where two bones ends meet and are enabled to move in certain directions. The two bones are held together by ligaments, which act as rubber bands. Ligaments help maintain bone position, while the muscles make the joint move. Bone itself is covered with soft tissue (cartilage), which prevents the bones from rubbing on one another. The joint is enclosed via a capsule and the space within the joint (joint cavity) contains a fluid known as the synovial fluid. Synovial fluid is a key aspect to the joint as it provides the joint and cartilage with its essential nutrients and lubrication.

Arthritis will affect the joint by damaging the bones and cartilages, this in turn can lead to muscle weakness, therefore leading to join instability. Patient suffering from arthritis may notice gradual change in the shape of the joint, hence leading to deformities.

Arthritis is not a single disease there are many different forms of the condition, however the two most common forms of arthritis are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.


What is osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis and usually develops gradually over time. It can affect all joints in the body but it is commonly seen in the hands, feet, hips, knees and spine. Causes for osteoarthritis are unknown; however research shows that the women are more prone to the condition.

The onset of the condition can occur at any age although it occurs more frequently in elderly people. Osteoarthritis develops when there are changes in the cartilage therefore affecting the mechanics of the joint. Sometimes part of the cartilage can break away from the bone therefore leaving the bone ends exposed.

This can lead to the bone ends rubbing against each other and the surrounding ligaments can become strained and weak. This can cause a lot of pain for the patient and cause changes in the shape of the joint.

How is osteoarthritis treated?

Treatment for the condition can involve either surgical or non-surgical intervention.

Your healthcare providers may discuss options to help arthritis.

Treatments may include pain-killers or anti-inflammatory medicines, patches or gels.

  • Braces or Supports
  • Special Exercises
  • Injections into the affected joints
  • Orthotics
  • Special shoes

Rheumatoid arthritis

What is Rheumatoid arthritis?

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a long term disease which affects the joints and tendons in the body causing inflammation, pain, swelling and stiffness. Rheumatoid arthritis is known as an ‘autoimmune disease’ as it is caused when the body’s immune system, which normally fights infection, starts to attack healthy joints.

How does Rheumatoid arthritis affect the body?

Usually, inflammation is the body’s way of healing. In rheumatoid arthritis, however, the immune system starts to attack the body instead of defending it.

The inflammation affects:

  • the synovial membrane that lines the joint capsule
  • the tendon sheaths (tubes in which the tendons move)
  • the bursae (sacs of fluid that allow the muscles and tendons to move smoothly over each other)

The joints and inflamed tissues then become stiff, painful and swollen.

Blog authored by Anuj Soni and David Good, Podiatrists at The Footcare Centre, Weybridge, Surrey UK

« Back