AC Joint Arthritis 101: Causes, Symptoms & Natural Care

Arthritis is a very common health disease characterized by inflammation or swelling of the joints in the body. This causes a lot of pain during the movement of joints, which may eventually turn into chronic pain if not treated.

It is usually observed among women and the elderly. This disease gradually worsens with age, especially after the age of 70.

The most frequently occurring types of arthritis are found in the knee and the hip joints. However this post focuses on AC Joint arthritis or arthritis of the shoulder- one of the leading causes of shoulder pain and dislocation.

What is AC joint arthritis?

The Acromioclavicular joint arthritis is also known as the AC joint arthritis.

The pectoral girdle, also known as the shoulder girdle is made up of bones which connect the arms to the main body. The bones include clavicle (collar bone) and scapula (shoulder blade). The tip of the shoulder blade is known as Acromion.

The Acromioclavicular joint is located at the junction of collar bone and the acromion. This is different from the ball and socket joint present in the shoulder, which is known as the Glenohumeral joint.

The AC joint is a synovial joint, a type of joint which allows easy and smooth movement of the bones. This is possible as the bones forming the joint are lined by the articular cartilage (soft bone-like tissue that ensures flexible joint function).

The space between the two bones is filled with a fluid called the synovial fluid. Synovial joints are prone to arthritis.

Acromioclavicular arthritis is a progressively degenerating disease of the AC joint. It may occur in either just one or both the shoulder joints.

Osteoarthritis of the AC joint includes degeneration of the cartilage and abnormal growth of the bone in the joint.

Rheumatoid arthritis leads to degeneration of the tissues including the synovial fluid and muscles.

What are the causes of AC Joint Arthritis?

Arthritis can occur due to various reasons. Some of the main causes of this disease in the AC joint may be:
Injury

Many times an accident or an injury may lead to the dislocation of bones. When this happens in the bones making up the AC joint, there is a high chance of the person developing osteoarthritis of this joint.

Apart from this, damage to the tissues such as ligaments and cartilage present in the joint may also cause osteoarthritis.

Ageing
Middle and old age people are more likely to suffer from this disease than the younger ones. This is because, after a certain age, the rate of formation of bone is less than the rate of its degeneration.

This leads to an overall degeneration of bones and cartilage.

Genes
studies have found that the genetic composition of a person may be responsible for determining the chances of developing arthritis.

Both the types of arthritis, Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid arthritis are influenced by the genes present in the body.

Stress
When the bones undergo more stress than they can handle, the joints may develop arthritis.

Athletes frequently have arthritis of the AC joint. Strenuous physical activity harms the tissues of the shoulder joints. This may tear the tissues or drain the synovial fluid.

Weightlifters also face a similar situation. Lifting heavy weights causes severe damage to the shoulder.

Injuries such as rotator cuff tear may lead to the AC joint arthritis.

A rotator cuff is a group of muscles along with the tendons connecting them. These muscles allow the movement of shoulders. However, when the excess load falls on them, they may get damaged. This is known as a rotator cuff tear.

What are the symptoms of AC Joint Arthritis?

The main symptoms of arthritis of the AC joint are pain and swelling of the joint. The pain may be chronic, or it may come and go at any point in time.

Joint Stiffness

Arthritis, in the AC joint, results in the joint becoming stiff and sore. This happens because of the damage to the synovial fluid or a tear in the articular cartilage. It decreases the flexibility of the joint.

Pain

Soreness and pain at the tip of the shoulder are observed in those who suffer from this disease. People may even feel pain after the surgical treatment of arthritis.

When the tissues present in the AC joint are not properly healed post the surgery, the pain may persist for a long time.

Tenderness

Tenderness, or the aching of joint when touched, is another symptom of arthritis.

Inflammation

Arthritis is a disease which means inflammation of the joints. The joint swells up because of the deterioration of the tissues.

Weakness

Due to the degeneration of the AC joint in rheumatoid arthritis, the strength of the muscles of shoulder decreases. This impairs the functioning of the shoulder and causes a difficulty in movement.

What are the conventional treatment options for AC Joint Arthritis?

Arthritis of the acromioclavicular joint is diagnosed with the help of – X-rays and MRI scans.

It can be treated either surgically or non-surgically and through medications. Non-surgical methods are preferred because they are less risky in the long run than surgeries.
Operating the joint may involve a lot of complications such as internal bleeding, infections, and persistent pain.

Non-surgical methods of treatment:

  • NSAIDs (Non-SteroidalAnti-Inflammatory Drugs) – Drugs like Aspirin and Ibuprofen reduce the swelling and pain caused due to arthritis.
  • Physiotherapy – Physiotherapy or physical therapy is a method of moving the joints mechanically. This is a safe way to prevent the disability of the joint.
  • Steroids – It is believed that steroids effectively cure the pain in joints due to arthritis, but studies show that corticosteroids which are injected into the AC joint only provide a short-term relief from the pain. They do not help in controlling this disease.

Surgical methods of treatment:

  • Shoulder Arthroplasty– Also known as Shoulder Joint Replacement surgery, this involves complete replacement of the joint. This surgery is done when the person is suffering from a severe form of arthritis.
  • Resection arthroplasty– Shoulder reselection arthroplasty is a type of surgery in which the end part of collarbone of the AC joint is cut and removed. This creates a gap between the Acromial bone and the collarbone. This gap is then filled with a lubricant which allows easy movement of the joint.
  • Arthroscopy – Arthroscopic surgery involves treatment of the joint by inserting an endoscope (a small camera-like device), called an arthroscope in this case, inside the joint to view the injury and then treat it.

AC Joint Arthritis 101 Causes Symptoms Natural Care

Evidence Based Natural Remedies for AC Joint Arthritis

Using natural substances to treat a disease is always a better option than the administration of various types of drugs.

Even though the use of natural treatment methods is not very popular among people, it should be encouraged as there are no side effects. Along with this, various changes in the lifestyle should be adopted to live a healthier life.

Natural methods for treating arthritis of the AC joint are very simple and effective.

Turmeric

Turmeric or its active ingredient curcumin is the most effective substance used to cure arthritis. It suppresses the symptoms of this disease, which mainly include inflammation and pain.

The oil extracted from Turmeric is also helpful in controlling the swelling due to arthritis.

Ginger

Ginger is a part of a rhizome or root of the plant. It has been found to be useful as well as safe for the treatment of osteoarthritis.

Studies report that people who take ginger orally experience a decrease in the pain caused due to the disease. Also, the stiffness of the joints is reduced, and movement of limbs becomes possible.

Probiotics

As we know, rheumatoid arthritis involves the destruction of the tissues present in the joint by the immune system.

Consumption of probiotics strengthens the immune system and introduces bacteria which is beneficial to the body.

This could prevent the damage done to the joints. Another study suggests that manipulating the microorganisms to make them cure arthritis can be a field of research in the future.

Vitamins

Vitamin D is required to build up bones. An increase in the intake of this vitamin, especially in old people and women, may substantially reduce the chances of developing arthritis.

A combination of Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin E and Selenium may be used for the treatment, but the effect of these has not been proven yet.

Fish oil

Studies show that intake of fish oil cures the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. It decreased the inflammation of the joints.

Apart from helping in the treatment of arthritis, consuming fish oil lowers the risk of cardiovascular diseases as well.

Glucosamine and Chondroitin sulfate

A combination of both these substances can be taken as supplements. This has been found to be effective in providing relief from pain and increasing the movement of the joints.

It is preferred over other medicines as it has very less chances of showing any side effects. The articular cartilage present in the AC joint is made up of these substances; hence they can be used to cure the damaged cartilage.

Lifestyle changes that help in AC Joint arthritis

Certain lifestyle changes, when incorporated along with natural remedies, can help significantly in AC Joint Arthritis

Consume water and fresh juices

Drinking sufficient water every day improve the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. Keeping the body hydrated reduces the inflammation and the oxidative stress.

Engage in a healthy workout

Rather than a heavy workout, light exercises of the shoulder should regularly be performed to allow movement of the joints. This would reduce the stiffness and the pain.

Stretching exercises should be done for healthy muscles. This has been found to be as effective as taking injections for pain relief.

Opt for a Healthy diet

A diet which contains high quantities of vitamins such as vitamin D and minerals like Calcium, which help in regeneration of the skeletal system of the body aids in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis.

Fatty acids such as Omega-3, Omega-6, and other healthy fats also help in improving the health condition along with the above-mentioned nutrients.

Apart from these, fruits and vegetables should also be included in the daily diet.

Take adequate rest

Along with a moderate amount of exercise, sufficient rest should be given to the shoulder. This would give the body time to heal the lost muscle and other tissues.

Conclusion

Even though arthritis cannot be completely treated, it can be prevented and controlled.

To minimize the effects of this disease, the daily routine should be changed to incorporate a light workout to keep the joints moving and a healthy diet to provide the body with essential nutrients.

Having an optimum body weight reduces the risk of arthritis, especially in the knee and hip joints. Care should be taken not to put excessive weight or stress on the joints as it might damage them.

Scientists are trying to find a way to treat this disease and prevent it permanently. There is a lot of scope for this in the future. Currently, not much is known about arthritis in the AC joint.

Once people find how arthritis occurs, they can devise new ways such as the creation of medicines which regenerate the muscular tissues present between the joint, strengthening the tissues and improving the surgical methods to make them more effective and long lasting.