Here’s an interesting fact for you:
There is no clear consensus on exactly how many joints there are in the human body.
Seems kind of weird, right? After all, we know there are 206 bones, 650 muscles, and approximately 1,320 tendons (tissues connecting muscles to bones, as opposed to the ligaments which connect bones to other bones).
So if we know all that, why not the number of joints?
Well, this comes down to the debatable nature of what actually constitutes a joint. And if you cannot define something, it’s mighty difficult to determine how much of it there is.
But what we do know is this:
However they may be defined in a general sense, some kinds of joints enable motion, and these ones clearly constitute the majority—no matter what the specific number happens to be—of your body’s joints.
We definitely understand if you’re confused, because don’t all joints allow movement? See, that right there goes back to the lack of a clear consensus of the number of human joints.
Part of the difficulty with everyone getting on the same page about “joint or not a joint” is that there are areas in the body where two bones meet, but movement isn’t supposed to happen—such as with the various bone plates in our skulls.
With regards to the many movement-enabling joints throughout the body—like ones in the hips, shoulders, knees, wrists, etc.—we all have a propensity to take them for granted…until something goes wrong.
There are different problems that can develop with regards to our anatomical joints, with arthritis clearly being a big one.
Now, arthritis is a bit misunderstood.
Most people think it’s a single condition, but there are actually over a hundred arthritic conditions.
The reason for the misconception likely stems from the fact that there is one type of arthritis that is considerably more common than the other ones. Usually, when someone is talking about arthritis, they are referring to osteoarthritis.
Osteoarthritis is the “wear and tear” version that tends to develop over time as the human body ages.
Other arthritic conditions include gout, rheumatoid arthritis, and post-traumatic arthritis.
The binding theme for all of these kinds of conditions is that they cause pain and swelling in joints. This is certainly understandable because the word arthritis itself almost literally translates to “joint inflammation.”
Arthritis—especially osteoarthritis (again, think “wear and tear”)—is a common medical problem affecting nearly 40 million Americans.
To put that number in perspective, it would be as if all 39.5 million California residents had an arthritic condition!
So this is a common issue, but the good news is that there are many forms of treatment and management for arthritic conditions.
Even better, in spite of another frequent misconception, not all cases require surgery!
When it comes to arthritis treatment, there are an array of nonsurgical options—and one of the best is something that might actually surprise you.
Out of the various conservative treatments, physical activity is universally-lauded as being the best non-medication option.
You might be thinking “that can’t possibly be right!”
We understand. It is a bit counterintuitive. After all:
If it hurts to move, is moving more really the best idea?
The truth of the matter, though, is exercise can actually be very important for arthritis management!
There are several benefits of exercise for arthritis, including:
- Stronger muscles. Strengthening your muscles is a proven tactic for both supporting and protecting joints affected by arthritis.
- Increased range-of-motion and flexibility. Regular stretches and range-of-motion exercises, like yoga or tai chi, can maintain (and even improve) joint flexibility.
- Lower bodyweight. Simply put, the less you weigh, the less physical force any arthritic joints in your lower body have to endure, and a regular exercise program can help you keep off excess weight.
- Greater aerobic conditioning. Strengthening the heart and lungs gives you better stamina and energy throughout the day than if you let arthritic pain keep you couch-bound.
Understanding the benefits of exercise is a great first step in arthritis management, but an essential second step is creating a program that actually works.
Attempting to do too much at the onset of your exercise program could cause more problems than the benefits. As such, it’s important to develop a plan that starts with lower levels of intensity and duration.
Additionally, you really need to stay aware and listen to your body. If you have a flare-up of arthritic pain, rest for 2 or 3 days before resuming activity. There’s no need to unnecessarily push through pain, so take time to recover!
Choosing the right exercises will keep you safe and make it easier to adhere to your “ease arthritis pain” workout program. Walking, swimming, yoga, tai chi, and lifting weights (even lighter ones) are all fantastic options.
Not sure what’s best for you? Our team can help!
Depending on your specific case, our treatment plan for your arthritis may start with conservative options, such as physical therapy.
We might need to recommend surgery, though, if nonsurgical care isn’t effective or your pain is causing severe disability.
If you maintain a healthy weight and exercise on a regular basis—but still find joint pain to be debilitating—it might be time for you to consider arthritis surgery.
The surgical procedure(s) we recommend will depend on the location and type of arthritis, and the impact it has on your joints. In some cases, you may benefit from more than one procedure.
Types of arthritis surgery we perform include:
- Arthrodesis (fusion). Arthrodesis is a procedure where we fuse the bones of the joint completely together, thereby making one continuous bone out of two or more bones. The goal of this particular procedure is to reduce pain by eliminating any possible motion in the arthritic joint.
- Arthroscopic debridement. This surgery is often helpful in early stages of arthritis. Debridement (cleansing) is a procedure we use to remove loose cartilage, inflamed synovial tissue, and bone spurs from around an affected joint.
- Total joint replacement (arthroplasty). In a total joint replacement, we remove the damaged bone and cartilage, and then position new plastic or metal joint surfaces to restore function and movement.
There are pros and cons of each respective type of surgical procedure we can use to treat arthritis—when this is determined to be the best possible course going forward—and we will carefully review these with you beforehand.
That said, our hope always is that we can provide the care you need without recommending surgical intervention.
No matter which path for treatment we take, it is important to us that you are educated and able to make an informed decision. If you ever have any questions regarding possible treatment options, our practice, or anything related to this subject, please feel free to let us know and we’ll be happy to answer them for you!For more information or to request an appointment at McDowell Orthopedics & Podiatry Group, simply give us a call at (916) 961-3434.