Understanding what might cause osteoarthritis and knowing how to cope with it when you have it, is essential in sustaining your long-term mobility. Through talking to those with arthritis - like former footballer Shaun Barker - we know that joint wear and tear and arthritis can have huge implications on your life. But by staying active, you can keep your arthritis in check. Function Jigsaw is a sports injury clinic based in Leicester, who aspire to return all of their patients to their chosen activities as quickly as they can and in the best shape possible. They know a thing or two about managing joint pain and stiffness. We sat down with Tom Heeley, the Clinical Programme Manager at Function Jigsaw, to discuss their holistic approach to staying active, why the body is one big jigsaw and the warning signs of arthritis.
The human body is a complex machine.
Think of your body as you would a car. For it to move effectively and efficiently all the moving parts have to be in good working order. It’s why we send our cars for a service every year, to make sure everything is running smoothly. The body is no different. So if you have a wheel that is not properly aligned then the car is going to drag in a certain direction, that puts pressure on other parts of the car, like the tyres, and that causes them to wear down faster. Now imagine that on a human body, for example, a knee. If you have sustained an injury that is going to put pressure on other parts of your body. Your body has to compensate and this can heavily impact things like our joints and in turn, the essential cartilage that allows them to move smoothly.
The body is one big jigsaw puzzle.
All these different pieces that all need to fit together in order to allow the bigger picture to move properly. That’s why if you have any kind of joint issue - or any other physical issue for that matter - you have to take a holistic approach. It could be anything from joint mobility through to psychology, so it’s not just the muscles and the joints and the ligament components. It could be all the way through to the food that you’re eating that could cause inflammation and cause pain in your joints.
There is no quick fix. This is especially true of arthritis.
The way we work, there is no point in just looking to fix the one problem area. If you just get one thing right, you might fix it but you’ve got to open your eyes and look at the other areas and think ‘let’s change this and let’s change that’ anything that can benefit the patient and allow them to stay fit and healthy in the long term, not just until a similar injury or pain rears its head.
Osteoarthritis doesn’t happen overnight.
There are many causes of osteoarthritis, age being a key one as the lifetime of using that joint can have an impact on it. But for some, it will be as a result of a previous injury. So with Shaun Barker after his football injury, we knew he was likely to suffer from arthritis later down the line in that knee. If you’ve badly injured a joint or the tendons and muscles around that joint you’re at an increased risk of developing osteoarthritis and that’s because the biomechanics of that joint have changed. That bearing is now not going to be functioning in the way it was designed and this puts added stress and pressure on the joint. Over time this wears down the smooth cartilage that allows the joint to move freely, this can lead to osteoarthritis.
Spot the warning signs.
Arthritis can manifest itself in a number of ways. It could be something as simple as a constant ache, maybe random swelling that doesn’t seem to affiliate with something that you’ve done. You may not have done anything specific which brought on the swelling and it’s just sitting around the joint. Heat can be a sign as well - so the joint would tend to feel a little bit warm in comparison to the other joint on the other side. Sometimes colour; you might notice a little bit of difference in colour, it might seem a little bit redder or it might even just feel a bit puffy.
Whatever you do, stay active.
It’s the most important thing I think, with arthritis, is to have strong enough joints to try and battle the incident. You need to stabilise the joint and hold it in the correct position for it to function correctly through movement. Whether it’s just cycling or swimming or something as simple as walking.
You can find out more about Function Jigsaw on their website and on their social media channels Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
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