Understanding Arthritis



Arthritis is inflammation of one or more joints, effecting nearly 47 million people in the United States. There are over a hundred types of arthritis that can be found in both children and adults. The most common types of arthritis are osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia and rheumatoid arthritis.

  • Osteoarthritis
    • A degenerative joint disease which breaks down cartilage in the joints
  • Fibromyalgia
    • A condition which spreads throughout the body, causing pain in the muscles and soft tissues around the joint
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis
    • A disease which causes inflammation in the lining of the joint

Symptoms

There are some key symptoms presented in the majority of arthritis patients. The onsets of symptoms typically occur in the hands, knees, spine or hips.

  • Joint pain
  • Joint stiffness - especially after periods of rest or inactivity
  • Swelling of the joints
  • Redness and warmth in the joints
  • Joint Tenderness
  • Loss of Motion
  • Muscle and tendon pain
  • Difficulty or pain when standing or walking
  • Fluid retention and pressure in joints

Medical Evaluation

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms make an appointment with a health care professional for a medical evaluation. In order to provide a diagnosis, physicians will examine your joints for signs of inflammation or deformity. They may also order specific joint fluid, blood or urine tests. X-rays may also be ordered to assist with the diagnosis. In most cases, your family doctor will be able to determine the cause of your arthritis.

However, if the reason is unclear, they may refer you to a Rheumatologist who specializes in rheumatic conditions, including arthritis. Many conditions can contribute to arthritis and these will need to be ruled out in order to provide you with the appropriate care.

Treatment

Although there is currently no cure for arthritis, patients can experience a significant improvement in their symptoms, with timely and proper treatment. The specific form of arthritis you have will determine which types of treatment options are most suitable for your condition. Most options focus primarily on improving joint mobility and reducing joint pain and stiffness.

  • Physical and Occupational Therapy
    • Helps to strengthen joints and provide better mobility
  • Regular Exercise
    • Low impact aerobic and strengthening exercises such as walking, swimming and stretching may reduce pain and stiffness in the joints
  • Heat and Cold Treatment
    • Moist and dry heat helps to alleviate pain. Cold packs may also be used to ease pain and reduce swelling.
  • Weight Maintenance
    • Additional weight adds more stress to the knees and hips. Therefore, diet and weight loss may be advised.
  • Pain and Anti-inflammatory Medication
    • Ibuprofen, acetaminophen, aspirin, corticosteroids, or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicine
  • Joint Surgery
    • Including fusion, arthroscopy or joint replacement
  • Joint Splints
    • Used to brace the effected joint in order to relieve stress and prevent further injury
  • Acupuncture
    • Causes the brain and spine to naturally produce pain relieving chemicals
  • Massage
    • Pain can be relieved by increasing blood flow and producing additional warmth in the muscles
  • Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS)
    • A TENS device is used to deliver mild, electrical pulses to the nerve endings, which provides temporary relief by blocking pain messages to the brain.
  • Rest
    • Don't over-stress your body. Make sure to incorporate times for rest throughout your day to minimize your symptoms and to protect your joints from injury.

Without the proper care and treatment, arthritis can greatly impact you, your family and your career. By starting today and making simple adjustments to your daily routine, you can take control of your arthritis.