Many people suffer from the pain and discomfort that arthritis brings. The pain usually lingers in the joints as this condition affects the area. This makes it difficult for the patient to move the affected area. If the joints in the feet and knees are affected, it could be very difficult and painful to walk.
What is Arthritis
Arthritis is the swelling and inflammation of joints. While there are hundreds of types of arthritis, the two most common forms are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Each type of arthritis damages joints in different ways. In some cases, arthritis will affect the surrounding tissue of a damaged joint as well.
Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis and is due to wear and tear. It most commonly occurs in the knees, spine, hips and hands but can be present in other joints in the body as well. When joint cartilage breaks down, osteoarthritis occurs. Unfortunately, this type of damage is irreversible.
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that causes inflammation in the affected joints. This occurs when your body’s immune system misidentifies your healthy cells and attacks them as if they are foreign invaders, such as harmful viruses or bacteria. Rheumatoid arthritis can attack many joints at once and is most common in women.
Inflammation due to RA can cause tissue and bone damage but if you receive treatment quickly, further damage can be prevented. Since RA is systemic, it can negatively affect your organs as well as your cardiovascular system and respiratory health.
The most common symptoms of arthritis are:
- Decreased range of motion
- Joint changes
- Loss of appetite
In severe cases, arthritis pain can make it impossible for sufferers to walk, go up and down stairs and result in the inability to perform daily activities such as cleaning, bathing, brushing their teeth, gardening and more. People with arthritis may even abstain from social events due to their pain and discomfort.
Some types of arthritis are classified as autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, ankylosing spondylitis and others. Many inflammatory arthritis conditions are caused by the body’s immune system turning on itself. Genetics play a role in who will develop an autoimmune disease but many other factors influence these diseases as well.
People born with specific genes are more likely to develop inflammatory types of arthritis. HLA genes put people at a higher risk of rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, and lupus. The reason why is unknown.
Osteoporosis is also considered an inherited disease. If you have family members with OA, you’re more likely to develop it. Fibromyalgia is linked to genetics as well.
Certain infections can lead to arthritis. Lyme disease, staph, hepatitis, mumps and joint infections can all cause arthritis, the most common infectious cause being staph. This type of arthritis is reactive, meaning an infection somewhere in the body causes inflammation in the joints.
Injuries that cause joint damage can lead to arthritis. Joints can be damaged while playing sports or in a car accident. Traumatic damage weakens the affected bone or cartilage causing it to break down, leading to arthritis.
Many things come with age, including arthritis. As we age, our bones become more fragile and cartilage and connective tissues deteriorate. As a result, inflammation may occur.
When joints carry excessive weight, it puts them under stress. The stress caused by obesity can lead to inflammation and erosion of your joints. Weight bearing joints such as the knees and hips most commonly suffer when there is extra weight. However, exercise and healthy eating habits can help you maintain a healthy weight.
It is more common for women to have rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, and osteoarthritis than men. Although it is unknown why women are predisposed, being a woman is a risk factor for these types of arthritis. Men, however, are more prone to developing gout.
If your diet consists primarily of inflammatory foods, you’re putting yourself at risk. Eating a diet rich in antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids is not only nutritious but can even ease the pain of arthritis. Fish, berries, and spinach are just a handful of foods that may be worth adding into your diet. Avoiding foods high in purine can help prevent gout as well. Smoking has also been proven to increase the risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis.
Jobs that require excessive bending, squatting and heavy lifting can increase your likelihood of developing arthritis, specifically osteoarthritis in the knees.
There are several ways to lower your risk of developing arthritis. Here are a few ways to be proactive.
- Avoid smoking to prevent the development of arthritis. Quitting will not only reduce arthritis pain but also improve your quality of life.
- Maintain a healthy weight and eat a diet low in sugar and alcohol.
- Avoid injury. While this is easier said than done, damaging your joints can lead to arthritis. Use proper form and techniques when exercising, lifting and squatting.
- Practice good posture. This can protect your joints and reduce strain.
- Stay hydrated. Water reduces inflammation by decreasing toxins in the body.
- Eat a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants.
- Strengthen your muscles with regular exercise and increase your mobility by stretching frequently.
- Get a good night’s sleep every night. Poor sleep has been linked to chronic pain and increased inflammation. Avoid looking at screens before going to bed and limit your caffeine intake.
When to See a Doctor
Some types of arthritis can cause severe, irreversible damage if they go untreated. To prevent permanent joint damage, it is important to see a doctor immediately if you experience any of the following:
- Joint pain or discomfort that lasts longer than three days
- Any symptoms related to arthritis including pain, stiffness, swelling, inability to perform daily activities, tenderness or redness
- Joint discomfort on multiple occasions throughout the month
- Your pain does not improve with rest.
- You have a fever accompanied with pain.
How We Perform an Assessment
In order to provide our patients with accurate diagnoses, we perform thorough exams to properly diagnose arthritis and learn which type a patient has before creating a treatment plan. The following tests are used to detect and diagnose arthritis:
- Physical examination
- Blood test
- Urine analysis
- CT Scan
While arthritis can be a debilitating disease, there are treatment options available that can ease pain and discomfort. Once a patient has received a diagnosis, we create an individualized treatment plan to best serve their needs. When beginning treatment, remember that all bodies respond differently, so you may have to try several options before finding what works best for you. As with many medical conditions, the earlier a patient receives treatment, the better. The following are common treatment options your doctor may recommend.
Depending on the diagnosis, medication can be a great option for reducing pain and managing inflammation. NSAIDS (anti-inflammatories), painkillers such as acetaminophen, tramadol and oxycodone, oral or injected corticosteroids and disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs for rheumatoid arthritis are just a few medications used to combat arthritis. Those with infectious arthritis may require antibiotics.
Occupational & Physical Therapy
Both occupational therapy and physical therapy can benefit patients with arthritis. Physical therapy programs are designed with strength and mobility in mind. Occupational therapy is primarily used to teach patients how to complete daily activities that have become difficult and how to adapt so that their quality of life does not suffer.
While surgery is the least conservative treatment option, for some patients it is necessary. Surgery can be used to replace, resurface and repair any joints that are damaged. There are many types of surgery used to combat and repair damage due to arthritis but some of the most common are joint replacements, synovectomies, arthroscopies, joint resurfacing procedures, and joint fusions.
Joint replacement procedures are most commonly performed on the knees and hips and involve a total replacement of damaged joints. A synovectomy is the removal of damaged synovium and is typically performed on people with rheumatoid arthritis. Joint fusions use hardware to fuse multiple bones together. Arthroscopic procedures aim to repair damaged tissue and cartilage and can sometimes eliminate the need for a total joint replacement. Joint resurfacing involves placing an implant to create a smooth surface with the intention of reducing pain and increasing the patient’s range of motion.
Arthritis can be relieved at home through hot & cold packs and lifestyle changes. It is important for anyone suffering from arthritis to consider the following lifestyle changes.
- Exercise regularly.
- Eat a healthy diet.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Get plenty of rest.
Heat can be used to help relax muscles, spasms and relieve stiffness. Cold packs can reduce swelling, pain and calm inflammation as well.
As pain specialists, we can guarantee that we are more than qualified in alleviating your pain and treating your condition. We use state-of-the-art facilities and technologies in treating arthritis.
Don’t let arthritis rule over your life. You deserve to live a pain-free and more comfortable life. So why suffer if there is an arthritis treatment center you can count on? Contact AZ Pain and Spine Institute and make an appointment with us today.