Arthritis is an inflammatory health condition that affects one or more joints in an individual’s body. A person with arthritis experiences pain, stiffness, and/or swelling in specific joints, and the result can greatly diminish the individual’s quality of life.
The most common joints affected by arthritis include the hands, fingers, wrists, elbows, and knees. However, arthritis can impact any joint in the body. The severity of the condition varies from person to person, with some experiencing moderate pain and others facing debilitating symptoms day in and day out.
Types and Causes of Arthritis
Arthritis, and the experiences that patients have with it, can differ depending on the type of arthritis an individual is dealing with. There are several forms of arthritis, and some of the most common forms include Psoriatic Arthritis, Osteoarthritis, Rheumatoid Arthritis, and Infectious Arthritis.
Some health conditions produce arthritis-like symptoms, as well, such as the joint pain that accompanies Gout, Fibromyalgia, or Lupus flare-ups.
The cause of arthritic conditions is also dependent upon the type of arthritis a person has. Psoriatic Arthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis are each autoimmune disorders, meaning that the pain and inflammation that they produce are brought on by the body’s immune system mistakenly attacking its own healthy cells.
Osteoarthritis, the most common type, develops with age due to wear and tear on the body’s various joints. Also known as Degenerative Joint Disease, the pain, stiffness, and inflammation experienced with this condition are caused when the cartilage padding the joints begins to wear away. There is likely an autoimmune component to osteoarthritis that is not yet recognized.
Infectious arthritis is caused by an infection of the affected joint, as the name implies.
With most forms of arthritis, a few symptoms are common. These include:
Stiffness in Affected Limbs
Redness Around Inflamed Joints
Swelling of the Joints
Decreased Range of Motion
The pain produced by arthritis can be dull and aching or sharp and intermittent.
Though arthritis is a painful, complicated condition to live with at times, several treatment protocols exist to promote the greatest quality of life for patients dealing with this disorder.
Many arthritis relief options are natural and non-surgical, so depending on the patient’s needs and preferences, he or she will likely be able to work with a doctor to find adequate relief.
In some cases, there are techniques and lifestyle changes an individual can adopt to lessen the severity of their symptoms. Such options may include:
Gentle Exercise: Effective exercise routines for arthritis tend to be fluid and low-impact, such as yoga, tai chi, and short walks.
Anti-Inflammatory Diet: Reducing inflammatory triggers in an individual’s diet may also be effective in reducing arthritis pain. Avoiding excess sugar, fatty food, processed carbohydrates, alcohol, and salty additives may be worth considering. Some individuals with arthritis reduce their intake of processed foods overall, replace red meat with fish, and limit how much dairy they consume.
Weight Loss: In some cases, losing weight may be helpful for individuals who are either overweight or obese. Reducing the weight placed on inflamed joints stands to also reduce joint strain.
Assistive Devices: Using supportive braces, bed pads, heating pads, or ice packs can help reduce pain and discomfort during a flare-up.
Natural, holistic therapy options are also effective in treating arthritis pain and reducing joint inflammation. For example, hydrotherapy is a water-based exercise program that helps to increase the range of motion in arthritic joints.
Acupuncture, massage therapy, chiropractic adjustments, and gentle joint manipulation techniques may also provide arthritis patients with effective pain relief.
These treatment options are often preferable, as they don’t result in a laundry list of side effects that interfere with the patient’s quality of life.
Oral medications, topical ointments, and injection treatments are also effective in reducing inflammatory symptoms. Many patients who make use of traditional arthritis treatments also supplement their care with other relief options. One example might be combining arthritis injection therapy with acupuncture and low-impact exercise.
Medications that work to reduce inflammation can be either prescription-grade products or ones that can be purchased over the counter at a local pharmacy. Icy Hot, Absorbine, and Tylenol are examples of OTC arthritis medications.
Several prescription medications exist to treat arthritis, and depending on the type of arthritis and the patient’s response to medication trials, one of the numerous options may be effective.
Cortisone, fluid replacement, PRP, and hyaluronic acid injections in or near an affected joint can also be appropriate pain relievers for arthritis patients. This is especially true for individuals with more localized symptoms (those affecting only a couple of joints).
In more severe cases, some patients with arthritis consider surgical options, which may include joint replacement procedures. This option is not the most common and because of how invasive it can be, the long recovery time usually makes it a last resort.
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