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Conditions Treated

Joint Disease

You can't walk without pain. The fact is, you can barely move without pain.

You may be one of the millions of people who suffer from joint degeneration — wear-and-tear on those parts of our body that give bones and muscles mobility and support.

Joints are actually bone ends connected by thick, bendable tissues. The bone ends that meet in a joint are covered with a smooth tissue called cartilage, allowing joint surfaces to glide together in pain-free movement. Through normal aging, disease or injury, cartilage is sometimes damaged and wears away. Bones then rub against each other, causing pain, and continuing degeneration and disability.

Although wear-and-tear may be an inevitable part of the aging process, the disability resulting from joint degeneration is not. Enormous progress has been made in developing both medical and surgical treatments that minimize pain and restore an active and healthy lifestyle.


The most common form of arthritis, osteoarthritis occurs in the joints of the body when the bone covering - cartilage - wears away.

The result is pain, swelling and joint stiffness that can limit movement. Joints most often infected include knees, hips, fingers and spine. Osteoarthritis most often affects people later in life, with up to 85 percent of people over age 65 suffering from this disease.

Unlike rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis does not spread throughout the body and is concentrated only in the affected joints. Osteoarthritis can be caused by normal wear and tear on joints, or by a sudden event such as trauma.

Treatment: Lifestyle changes can reduce or delay symptoms. These include:

  • Weight loss, particularly helpful in arthritis of the weight-bearing joints such as the knees.
  • Regular exercise that strengthens the muscles that support joints.
  • A good diet rich in fruits and vegetables and vegetables and a good supply of calcium.

Other treatment includes anti-inflammatory medications. When arthritis becomes severe, a number of surgical treatments are available.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

This disease usually first strikes people in their early 30s and 40s, and affects the entire body, rather than just individual joints.

It is caused by continuous inflammation of the synovium - the protective membranes that surround joints. This destroys protective cartilage and eventually the joints.

Research shows that a combination of things trigger rheumatoid arthritis, including heredity, an abnormal response of the body's immune system and a possible viral infection.

There are two types of rheumatoid arthritis:

  • Type I, less common, lasts a few months and leaves no permanent disability.
  • Type II is chronic and can last for life, causing disability and even other diseases.

Treatment: Treatment of this disease involves medication and lifestyle changes. Although treatment helps reduce symptoms, there is currently no medical program for curing this disease.

  • The most common drugs are used to treat rheumatoid arthritis are called "slow acting antirheumatic drugs" (SAARDs) and disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs), which slow the progression of the disease. They are sometimes combined with anti-inflammatory drugs for pain treatment. The drug combination depends on the severity of the disease.
  • Strength-training exercises can help increase strength, endurance, mobility and sense of well-being.
  • Behavioral therapies relaxation methods and biofeedback can be helpful.
  • Orthotic devices such as lightweight braces and splints can relieve pain and increase mobility.


Gentle exercise can help arthritis patients increase mobility and improve sense of well-being.

  • It's a good idea to alternate exercise with rest, which is also important for arthritis sufferers.
  • You should begin with gentle exercises such as stretching. Pain is an indicator that you should try something easier.
  • Strength training exercises can help tone muscles that support and protect joints. Start with mild tensing and flexing exercises and proceed to working with small weights and gentle resistance machines.
  • Regular weight-bearing exercise helps protect joints by strengthening the supporting muscles, tendons and ligaments and may actually stimulate the growth of cartilage.
  • Choose aerobic exercises that put minimal stress on joints - such as walking, bicycling or swimming - particularly in a heated pool. Heavy impact exercises such as running and skiing should be avoided. Tai Chi is excellent exercise, combining stretching and range of motion exercises with relaxation techniques.

The Southcoast Rehabilitation Department offers a range of physical and other therapies for arthritis patients.

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