Middle-aged and elderly people may suffer from progressive changes, described as osteoarthritis, in the bones and cartilages of joints. The cartilage softens and is rubbed off, the exposed end of the bone becomes smooth and polished, or ebumated, but at the margin of the joint surface, on the other hand, the bone shows overgrowth, either in the form of general accentuation of its edge, that is to say, lipping or in the forming of localized projections, or osteophytes.
The joints most frequently affected are the hip, the knee and the shoulder. Fairly frequent also are enlargements on the back of the last joint of the fingers, known as Heberden’s nodes, which are caused by overgrowth at the proximal end, that is, the one nearest the wrist, of the terminal phalanx. It will be noted that the joints mentioned are those exposed to most strain on the whole, so that strain may be a factor in causation. It is thought, however, that toxemia from foci in the bowel, teeth or elsewhere may also play a part.
At the outset pain may be slight and intermittent, but later may become-more severe and be continuous. There is also a limitation of movement which tends to be progressive. From time to time the joint may fill up with fluid.
Other conditions which may have to be distinguished are rheumatoid arthritis, gout, tuberculosis, Charcot’s disease (after the French neurologist, Jean-Martin Charcot, 1825-93), and chronic arthritis from gonorrhea and other specific germs. An X-ray examination may be helpful in determining the nature of the affection.
In treatment the general state of health must be considered. The bowels must be kept freely open. Any possible source of toxemia should be cleared up as far as possible. As regards the affected joint it may be said that moderate exercise is desirable, though rest may be necessary if the symptoms are acute. The general and local treatment for rheumatism (q.v.) may be useful in relieving pain. Sometimes prolonged treatment at a spa will appear to he the wisest course to take. The results of the disease cannot be removed by such general treatment, but the further progress may be stayed. It is sometimes desirable to operate and remove osteophytes or other causes of limitation of movement. See: Joint.. Rheumatoid arthritis..
Application and treatment:
In rheumatoid arthritis, a chronic disease of the joints, marked by inflammatory changes in the synovial membranes which secrete a transparent, viscid, lubrication fluid from tendon sheaths and joint areas (bursae and articulating membranes and by atrophy (wasting away from want of nourishment) and rarefication (thin, porous, less dense) of the bones.
It occurs mainly in people 20 to 40 years old. Changes start in small joints with swelling, pain, and movement limitation. In chronic stages there are muscular atrophy, deformities and inability to flex and extend the joint and motor impairment is permanent unless unlocked with polarity. The spinal column may be curved, there may be destruction of the bone matrix with fusion of the joints. Often joint pain may indicate tumor growth or inflammation of the nerves surrounding a joint. Joint pains are caused by allergies to penicillin and other drugs from negative polarity which must be polarized out.
Inflammation of joints in the fingers is very common and can show in wrists, knees, ankles and feet. In the early stage there is weakness, weight loss, poor appetite, fever and mild joint pain throughout the body and excessive sweating of hands and feet, which comes later.
In osteoarthritis there is no inflammation and the problem is mainly managed by means of damage control. Pain is easily controlled by electrode pad placement to either side of the affected joint, and swelling is also reduced. Positive polarity with the negative pad placed on the opposite foot, or over the sacrum is another method. Considerable prevention of joint enlargement is possible if the condition is diagnosed and treatment begins in the early stages of the disease. Complete cure of osteoarthritis is rare, but control of the disorder is very reliable.
Rheumatoid arthritis may be cured completely, however, but damage cannot be reversed, thus, it is essential in both forms to begin treatment early. See: Arthritis..