Rheumatology deals with disorders accompanied by pain of the musculoskeletal system and movement restriction with inflammation of the joints and joint degeneration being the most common. These were the topics of discussion at the last Health Education for Seniors session during a lecture offered by Katalin Szijártó, MD, neurologist, physiotherapist and rheumatologist of the Buda Health Center. Each person present received a test for completion at home.
If a middle aged man or woman can sit down on the floor and get up with the help of only one hand, then that person has a good chance of a long life free of rheumatic pain. You do not, however, need to get dejected if you were unable to complete the exercise at the moment since the ability to do so can be developed. What is most important is an active lifestyle - the best tool for preventing many of the diseases of the joints and soft tissues.
The importance of diet was also stressed. Muscle cramps that afflict many of the middle aged and older – typical are the nightly leg cramps – can most likely be kept at bay with a change in diet. It is important that we not strain ourselves excessively within three-four hours following a meal and that we warm-up before engaging in any sports. We should eat and drink less before a long walk, jogging or housework then, afterwards, we should drink plenty of liquids.
Of the soft tissue disorders, joint and tendon inflammation are the most common. Many of us suffer from inflammation of the Achilles tendon, tennis elbow and tendon sheath problems of the hands as the result of computer work. Well known also is the so-called “trigger finger” occurring when, due to thickened tendons, we can only straighten our bent fingers with the help of the other hand. The cause of soft tissue disorders may be over straining due to static movements or disorders of the endocrine system. To this group belong, among others, diabetes accompanied by inflammation of the shoulder as well as hypothyroidism causing muscle cramps and pain. Overstraining of the joints may also result in fluid retention between the skin and the tendon and protrusion of the bursa. Bursitis may develop principally near the shoulder and the elbow which is best treated by resting the joint for which compression bandaging serves very well. Another result of inflammation, is the Baker cyst appearing in the degenerated knee joint and gout resulting from an elevated uric acid that makes us prone to diabetes, high blood pressure and blood fats.
Psoriasis may be the cause of joint inflammation while the most serious abnormality, rheumatoid arthritis, the symmetric inflammation of the facet joints, may cause soft tissue damage. This is basically genetic, an autoimmune disorder that could have been provoked by a previous viral infection. Fortunately, medications exist today that block the inflammation.
Joint degeneration (arthrosis) is found in eighty percent of the population over the age of 65 years with symptoms presenting in a much smaller ratio. Obesity, regular alcohol consumption and smoking are detrimental. Prevention includes regular daily physical activities, joint exercises and, generally, a healthy lifestyle. For preventing major joint problems, we recommend using a good chair and making your home obstacle free be removing such items as rugs and thresholds.
Dr. Szijártó pointed out that musculoskeletal diseases also affect life expectancy since, among other things, they increase the cardiovascular risk factors. Thus, it is surprising that in the European Union countries and Hungary musculoskeletal disorders appear the most frequently.
Dr. Szijártó then gave the following advice: do not simply bear the pain. Do something about the causing factor since a bad quality of life can eventually result in serious mental problems. Moreover, the pain may irradiate to such an extent that, after a time, we will not be able to discern which organ is the one that is really involved.