What do you know about arthritis? Perhaps you’re picturing stiff and painful knobby growths at the joints of the fingers – or the crick of an ankle, both of which seem to worsen with a change in weather? But arthritis is much more widespread and potentially harmful than that.
Arthritis is inflammation that affects joints such as fingers, wrists, hips, knees, neck, back, shoulders, toes, and ankles. In addition to swelling, the area is usually painful with stiff or restricted movement.
Most people think of arthritis as an inevitable part of aging, but more than half of those affected are under the age of 65. Almost one-third of the population is expected to develop arthritis, and it is the leading cause of disability among American adults.
Many things can increase your risk of arthritis such as:
- Family history
- Underlying disease or disorders (e.g., diabetes, psoriasis, lupus)
Arthritis is a progressive condition so the longer you wait before seeking treatment, the greater the potential harm to your joint. Getting diagnosed early and seeking appropriate management of the condition is key to maintaining your quality of life.
Types of Arthritis
Arthritis can take many different forms. In fact, there are more than 100 different types of joint disease. Some of the most common forms of arthritis are:
The most common type of arthritis is osteoarthritis. It occurs when the cartilage cushioning between bones begins to wear down with use over time. This allows bones to rub together, causing pain or a grating sensation with movement.
A degenerative condition, osteoarthritis will worsen over time. What begins as a mild stiffness can easily progress to debilitating pain with movement. Thus, seeking professional orthopedic care early is critical to retain pain-free movement and quality of life.
Osteoarthritis most commonly affects the hips, knees, neck, low back, and hands.
The pain of osteoarthritis typically occurs during or right after movement, unlike the pain of bursitis, which can occur at rest when pressure is applied to the joint.
Osteoarthritis can also develop in a joint after an injury to the area. Because of this, younger athletes can develop the condition years before it might be more typical to do so.
Treatment of osteoarthritis varies widely, depending on the location and extent of the condition. Conservative methods such as physical therapy, medication, and pain management are typically recommended before surgical options such as a joint replacement is considered.
Osteoarthritis is different from osteoporosis, which is a bone disease that causes bones to become less dense, brittle, and easily fractured. Most often, people are not aware they have osteoporosis until they suffer a fragility fracture.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) typically results in greater inflammation in joints than is common with osteoarthritis.
RA is an autoimmune disorder, meaning that your immune system mistakenly attacks your joints, causing painful swelling. The knees, hands, and wrists are commonly affected by RA. Many different joints are usually affected at the same time with RA – for example, if rheumatoid arthritis occurs in the knee joint, it will develop in both knees.
Left untreated, RA can damage joints, causing long-term pain, balance problems, and deformity.
Treatment of RA typically consists of physical therapy and a collection of medications known as anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDS) designed to slow progression of the disease. In severe cases, orthopedic surgery such as joint replacement may be required.
Gout causes sudden excruciating pain, swelling, heat, and redness at the affected joint. It can occur in any joint but most often occurs in the big toe. The ankle, knee, elbow, wrist, and fingers may also be affected by an attack of gout. It typically affects a single joint at a time.
Gout is considered one of the most painful forms of arthritis, causing the joint to be so sore that even the slightest pressure on the area can feel unbearable.
Gout occurs due to the accumulation of uric acid in the blood, which forms sharp crystals in the joints. Uric acid levels may rise with overconsumption of rich foods (such as steak, organ meats, and seafood) and alcohol (especially beer and grain alcohol like vodka or whiskey). Gout is more likely to affect men than women.
Medication is the most common treatment for gout. Although it may go away on its own within two weeks, gout that is not properly treated can ultimately damage joints and cause long-term pain.
Alleviating Arthritis Symptoms
When your arthritis pain is significant, unrelenting, or worsening, it’s time for you to see an orthopedic specialist about it. Your treatment options will vary depending on the type of arthritis you are suffering from, your age and general health, as well as the severity or duration of your symptoms. But the first step is consulting with an expert for a proper diagnosis.
At the Joint Replacement Institute of Naples, Florida, we tailor treatment plans to fit your needs. This may mean physical therapy, medications, or various pain management procedures – all usually recommended before surgery. Viscosupplementation injections often help alleviate the symptoms of knee osteoarthritis, at least temporarily.
When orthopedic surgery is necessary, you will be happy to know you’re already in good hands at the Joint Replacement Institute.
Meanwhile, there are a few things you can do now, at home, to alleviate your symptoms, including:
- Lose weight if you need to. This is particularly helpful if the joint pain you are experiencing is occurring in weight-bearing joints such as the hips, knees, or feet.
- Exercise. Regular strength training, stretching, and cardiovascular exercise can strengthen muscles that help your body more ably support your weight, as well as help to keep you lose and limber. To retain your mobility, it helps to keep moving. Of course, if movement causes you pain, speak to your orthopedic doctor about treatment options that will allow you to exercise appropriately for your condition.
- Anti-inflammatory diet. Certain foods are known to have an anti-inflammatory effect on the body and may help with inflammation caused by arthritis. These foods include certain fish (like salmon, sardines, and tuna), spices (like turmeric, cinnamon, and cayenne), produce (like berries, broccoli, and ginger), and more.
- Don’t strain your joints. Poor posture and incorrect body mechanics when being active or lifting heavy objects can place extra stress on your joints. Be conscious of your alignment and take care when playing sports or performing tasks. For example, when carrying heavy items, keep your arms as close to your body as possible to avoid unnecessary strain on your wrists.
For Comprehensive Arthritis Care in Naples, FL, Call Our Orthopedic Specialist Today!
Are you suffering the aches and pains of arthritis? There are a number of therapies and treatments that may help. Call the orthopedic experts at the Joint Replacement Institute in Naples, Florida, to find out more. Call (239) 261-2663 or request an appointment now.