Osteoarthritis or arthritis?

We often hear our friends, our neighbours, various therapists and even our doctors talking about “having arthritis” and “having osteoarthritis”. These two terms can be confusing. Ultimately, they look alike and often have a fairly ''esoteric'' connotation for the person.

And so what is the difference between the two?

To begin with, the suffix ''-itis'' in medical terminology is a sign of inflammation. An inflamed tendon gives a ''tendin-itis''. The inflamed bronchi give a ''bronchitis''. You get the idea. So arthritis underlines an inflammatory joint reaction. It can be local or systemic.

Osteoarthritis, for its part, highlights wear at different levels of the articular cartilage.

Short explanation:

A joint is a junction area between two or more bones. These bones which come into contact with each other to allow movement therefore need to slide relative to each other. The sliding surfaces, therefore the articular surfaces, and to protect the bone, are covered with cartilage which ensures the protection of the bony structures. The next time you go to eat chicken thighs, take a look at the bony end. You see this surface or the color of the bone is lighter, bluish? It's cartilage.

For various reasons, it turns out that sometimes these cartilaginous surfaces are worn, cracked, or completely destroyed. If these surfaces cannot be repaired, the bones will begin to rub directly against each other, which generates pain, inflammatory reactions, joint limitations and a host of other symptoms.

Osteoarthritis does not happen overnight. Since it is an attack of degeneration of the cartilage, it is done in time, a little at a time. You can have osteoarthritis for a long time without necessarily realizing it. It is when a trigger occurs beyond the body's ability to manage the symptoms that painful episodes occur. Osteoarthritis can theoretically affect all the joints of the body. Whether in the vertebrae, knees, hips or jaw, where there is poor stress on a joint, repeated over time, we can end up with osteoarthritis of this precise joint.

When it comes to arthritis, you have to understand one thing. Inflammation is a reaction to a specific trigger, which can be mechanical but also chemical and biological. Inflammation is in nature a reaction carried by chemical agents. Beyond the symptoms it generates and the triggering factors, it is in itself chemical. Thus, for an inflammation well diagnosed by your doctor, an anti-inflammatory will be able to counter it. Medical chemistry to correct inflammatory biological chemistry.

Thus, osteoarthritis and arthritis are two entirely different problems. They can occur simultaneously, as each of them can exist independently of the other.

In future articles, we will shed light on each of the elements separately. We will talk about inflammation as such, osteoarthritis and the means of accompanying it, the role of the different therapists in the different attacks.

Patrick Georgevich

Physiotherapist; Entrepreneur.