Tuesday, December 18, 2012

How to Treat Arthritis with a Cold Therapy System

A cold therapy system is an effective treatment option for those who suffer from arthritis. Cold therapy relieves your symptoms and helps you slow the progression of your arthritis.
Understanding Arthritis
Arthritis is something that most people deal with eventually. There are over 100 different types of the condition. A diagnosis of arthritis simply means that something is wrong with at least one of your joints. Knowing how our joints work is the first step in understanding arthritis.
Inside our joints, ligaments hold the bones together. These stretch like elastic when we move our joints. Bones are padded with cartilage so that they do not rub directly against each other. This is what allows for smooth and painless mobility. Also, each of our joints is surrounded by a capsule called the synovial membrane, and is filled with synovial fluid. This liquid provides nourishment to the joint as a whole – especially to the cartilage.
Arthritis is characterized by pain, swelling, stiffness, redness and warmth. There are two common types:
• Rheumatoid arthritis
• Osteoarthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis is a form of joint inflammation. For unknown reasons, the synovial membrane is attacked by the body’s own immune system. Unlike Osteoarthritis, it usually affects both sides of the body. For example, it occurs in both hands or in both knees.
Osteoarthritis is a stiffening of the cartilage. Stiff cartilage means fragile cartilage. Not only does the cartilage smooth the joint movement, but it is also a shock absorber. Stiffened cartilage will suffer from wear and tear much more quickly than healthy cartilage. As cartilage wears away, the ligaments become over-stretched resulting in pain. Given enough time and cartilage loss, the bones will actually rub against each other. This bone-on-bone friction causes very severe pain.
What are Cold Therapy Systems?
The purpose of a cold therapy system is to cool isolated body parts for extended periods.
Cooling methods include:
• Automated flow of ice water through a cuff or other wearable device
• Clothing, gloves or braces designed to accommodate ice packs
• an electrical cooling element inside a device designed to fit specific body parts
How do Cold Therapy Systems Help with Arthritis?
Cold applications reduce swelling and inflammation by constricting blood vessels. Slowing blood flow to the area, cold therapy reduces the buildup of fluids. It will also stimulate the release of endorphins, which lower the number of pain signals that are sent to the brain. This combined effect will numb even deep arthritic discomfort. Cold therapy systems are especially helpful when pain flares up after activity.
Unfortunately, arthritis causes many people to avoid physical activity. Limited activity leads to many health problems, but it also makes arthritis worse. Weight gain and the loss of strength cause joints to hurt even more. To keep your joints flexible, you have to keep them moving. 
The use of a cold therapy system relieves the pain. This also allows you to go about your business without dedicating a hand to keep your compress on. Most importantly, it allows you to be active. You will be able to exercise the affected joint throughout your daily routine. Cold therapy systems make exercise a possibility for people who would be in too much pain otherwise. Exercise helps bone and cartilage health. Strengthened muscles take pressure off your joints. All these benefits of exercise greatly reduce the progressive nature of arthritis.
Prescriptions are not required cold therapy systems, but it is a good idea to speak with your doctor before using any cold compress for more than 20 minutes at a time.
Some patients find that combining heat therapy with a cold therapy system provides extra relief, though this is not the case for everyone. Some people get more arthritis relief from cold therapy systems alone.
There is no cure for arthritis, but we can slow its progression. Remember, the most important thing is to stay mobile. Practice range of motion stretches and get exercise. If arthritic pain has kept you from these activities, a cold therapy system can make them possible again.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Knee Wraps vs. Knee Braces

Any kind of injury or physical ailment can be difficult to deal with. This is often especially true for those who lead more active lives. And if there were ever a part of the body that can become a hindrance when not functioning correctly, it's the knee.

The knee is a very complex joint and is crucial in baring our weight and providing mobility. When it is not at its best, life can be difficult. Fortunately though, there are different ways that we can provide our knees with everyday relief. Aside from the obviously beneficial surgical or doctor intervention, there are two effective and very common knee-worn accessories: the knee brace and knee wrap.

Knee Wraps
Knee wraps consist of a long, stretchable wrap material, usually made of combinations of cotton, elastic, and synthetic fibers. The wrap is a single length of material that is systematically wrapped tightly around the knee joint. The wrap is kept in place by fastening Velcro at the end of the length to the rest of the wrap.
In essence, knee wraps provide effective, yet less extensive support for relatively minor knee issues. Here, wrapping can done as desired in order to achieve maximum comfort. The wearer can expect some heat build-up, slight circulation hindrance, and the need to re-wrap from time to time. The benefits though include increased support and possible pain relief.

Knee Braces
On the other hand, knee braces are somewhat different, physically holding specific, knee-conforming shapes and at times consisting of several parts. Similar to a wrap, the brace provides support and some potential pain relief. However, due to the knee brace's general design, it is considered a more extensive and longer-term relief option. Knee braces can even be prescribed before or after medical procedure.
A mild support knee brace may be made of an all-elastic material and be flimsy, yet fit tightly around the knee. This low-grade brace may even be interchangeable with a wrap and provides good support for mild issues such as a minor sprain or minor arthritic symptoms. A step up brings us to ligament and arthritis knee braces.

These mid-level braces are composed of harder support materials such as hard plastic and metal within specialized cushioning. This level of support is ideal for more severe stabilization needs such as after complete breaks or tears, or after surgery. Finally, the most specialized types of knee braces are those that are custom-made to fit a very special need. An example of this is repeated reconstructive repair of the knee and the subsequent need for more exact conform and support angles.
Both braces and wraps provide the basic function of support. But braces go a step further in providing even more support and conformity than a wrap alone can provide. These are the two most common knee-aid accessories and the differences between them. If you are ever in doubt, consult with your doctor for the best advice on your specific knee issue.