Arthritis is a condition that is characterized by inflammation of one or more joints. Symptoms ranges in severity from moderate to severe and in its late stages can be crippling. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 50% of adults 65 and older have been diagnosed as suffering from arthritis.
There are over 100 different types of arthritis. The top five most common are:
1-Osteoarthritis is the most common condition that is caused by gradual wear-and-tear of the joints.
2-Rheumatoid arthritis is not caused by deterioration, but instead, caused by an auto-immune disorder that causes the body to attack its own tissues which causes the inflammation, pain, and deterioration common to arthritic disorders.
3-Psoriatic arthritis is yet another type of arthritis that occurs most often in people with psoriasis (another autoimmune disorder).
4-Facet joint arthritis occurs in the facet joints of the spine and can be a result of injury or simply wear-and-tear over time.
5-Gout is a form of arthritis characterized by severe pain, redness, and tenderness in joints.
Arthritis risk factors - Obesity is often a factor in osteoarthritis, as it causes additional stress to weight-bearing joints in the body (e.g., hips and knees). For wear-and-tear types of arthritis, age is a main risk factor, as well-used joints simply get worn as we get older. Other common risk factors include Injury to the joint, occupational hazards (e.g., repetitive motion), infections in or around the joint and intense, frequent sports activity (e.g., long-distance running)
Treatments exist for arthritis - As of yet, no cure for arthritis exists; however, there are medications, procedures, and treatments that can alleviate some of the pain caused by it. Treatments are generally non- to minimally-invasive and are conservative in nature. Arthritis may not have a cure, but that doesn’t mean you’re destined to a life with pain. Consistent, low-impact exercise is the best way to maintain overall health and minimize the impact of this condition. Movement keeps your joints flexible, fluid, and extended through their fullest possible range of motion. Walking, yoga, and swimming are among the best exercises for those who suffer from arthritis as these activities are low-impact. The side benefit of exercise can be weight loss (or maintaining a healthy weight), which decreases stress on the joints.
Physical therapy sessions with a specially trained therapist can help develop exercises and stretching that are specifically tailored to your unique abilities and pain level. This type of non-invasive therapy can be especially useful when you combine it with other treatments, such as surgery or joint injections.
Durable medical equipment including braces, aids, accommodations, and other helpful tools can also be utilized to offer “a helping hand” now and then. Braces and other accommodations or comforts for arthritis can help you get your life back. For example, when hands are cold, warming gloves can bring comfort and ease stiffness. Arthritis aids may not relieve pain or improve your overall symptoms, but they can help with everything from getting dressed to making dinner.
Additionally, a variety of home remedies for arthritis can also provide relief and help with swelling and inflammation. Things like heat therapy, transdermal magnesium, essential oils and eating a diet of nutrients with anti-inflammatory components can help provide relief for arthritis.
Some patients find relief with acupuncture, a form of traditional Chinese medicine that stimulates the energy meridians of the body to promote healing. There are virtually no side effects to this treatment, so even if you are skeptical it can be worth a try before moving to more invasive treatments.
Over-the-counter pain relievers
The first-line of treatment for most forms of arthritis includes non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, otherwise known as NSAIDs which include ibuprofen and naproxen sodium. NSAIDs can alleviate chronic inflammation and pain. Typically you should use it only for short-term flare-ups of pain.
Joint injections -
Many arthritis patients have seen an improvement in their pain with joint injections. These consist of a corticosteroid injection that may reduce inflammation and pain in the joint. In some cases, you’ll need a series of injections for relief. Depending on the injection, the type of arthritis, and the severity, you can repeat joint injections to improve your range of motion in your joints. Combine these with physical therapy as well so you have the ability to undergo strengthening exercises with less pain.
Medial branch blocks -
May help those who suffer from back and neck pain due to this condition (including facet joint arthritis, one of the leading causes of lower back pain in adults). A medial branch block effectively reduces inflammation and irritation in the joints of the spine, and relief from pain is often immediate. Your doctor can perform medial branch blocks multiple times to help manage your pain.
Joint replacement -
In severe cases and after exhausting more conservative options, you may find relief through full joint replacement. By replacing the damaged joint with a plastic or metal prosthesis, you may experience a pain-free lifestyle, resuming activities that were previously impossible due to pain. While knee and hip replacements are the most common, medical technology has advanced to allow for shoulder joint replacements, elbow joint replacements, and finger joint replacements. While a replacement surgery may relieve pain, recovery time post-surgery is often long and can have complications that are non-existent with less invasive options. Because of this, it’s always best to try less invasive options before undergoing surgery.