The pain of arthritis affects more than 50 million adults in the United States and 350 million worldwide and is the leading cause of disability. While there is no cure for arthritis, treatments and lifestyle changes can help ease symptoms and improve quality of life.
According to the Mayo Clinic, arthritis is a term often used to describe around 200 conditions that affect joints. Arthritis can cause pain and inflammation in any joint in your body, including your hands, wrists, elbows, shoulders, neck, hips, knees, and feet. The most common types of arthritis are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Others are gout, lupus, and fibromyalgia.
This blog post will help you understand arthritis a little better. We will discuss what arthritis is, some of the symptoms associated with it, diagnosis, and treatment options. You should know better what you are dealing with if you or a loved one has been diagnosed with arthritis.
First up: What Causes Arthritis?
The most common form —osteoarthritis—is caused by joint wear and tear over time. It is often genetic or can be due to aging or previous injury. Other causes include metabolic disorders, autoimmune diseases, and infections in or around the joints.
Rheumatoid arthritis occurs when the body’s immune system attacks its tissues, causing joint inflammation. Joint inflammation can lead to joint damage. This form of arthritis can also cause damage to organs such as your eyes, lungs, heart, and blood vessels. If you have rheumatoid arthritis, you must see a doctor early on.
Symptoms of Arthritis
Some symptoms associated with arthritis can range from mild to severe. Some symptoms include joint pain or stiffness, swelling, loss of range of motion, or weakness. Often there may be a grating sensation when moving joints due to “bone-on-bone.” Arthritis may bring on fatigue or even fever due to inflammation. Everyone is different, and an individual’s pain tolerance plays a role.
8 Treatment Options for Arthritis
Different treatment options are available depending on the severity of your symptoms and the type of arthritis you have. Here are some ways to manage the discomfort and pain from arthritis.
- Get regular exercise. Exercise is one of the best things you can do for your overall health, and it’s also an effective way to manage pain. Regular exercise helps strengthen the muscles around your joints, increase flexibility, and improve your range of motion. Check with your physician before starting a new
routine, and begin slowly. You may increase the intensity gradually over time.
- Make sure you’re getting enough sleep. When you don’t get enough sleep, your body releases stress hormones that can worsen the pain. Aim for seven to eight hours of sleep each night to help reduce pain and fatigue.
- Eat a healthy diet. Eating a diet low in inflammatory foods can help reduce pain. Avoid processed foods, sugary drinks, red meat, and dairy products. Instead, focus on eating plenty of fruits, leafy green vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats like olive oil and fish oil.
- Take medications as prescribed. Medications include both over-the-counter and prescription drugs. If you’re taking medication for pain, make sure you’re taking it as directed by your doctor. Never take more than the recommended dose or stop taking a medication without first talking to your doctor.
- Try heat or cold therapy. Applying heat or cold to painful joints can help relieve pain and swelling. Try using a heating pad or ice pack for 15-20 minutes at a time, several times a day. Do not apply heat or cold directly to the skin; always wrap it in a towel first.
- Use assistive devices if needed. Canes, walkers, or grab bars can help make everyday activities more accessible to move about when you have arthritis. Your doctor or physical therapist can help you choose suitable devices for your needs and show you how to use them properly.
- A pain management physician may suggest injections of hyaluronic gel or a steroid. The purpose of a gel injection is to provide a protective layer between the joints as a cushion. It may last up to 6 months. A corticosteroid may reduce joint inflammation.
- Medical technology now provides a modern approach to alleviating arthritic pain. Platelet-rich-plasma, known as PRP, has been around for decades and has become a popular, safe option. Blood is taken from the patient’s arm and spun in a centrifuge to separate the blood into three layers. The platelets release growth factors that stimulate and increase the number of cells your body produces. The physician injects the platelet-rich portion into the area of discomfort. The entire process takes one appointment.
Living with arthritis doesn’t have to mean living in constant pain. Your pain management physician can discuss these options to determine the best one for you.
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