Have you ever been told to “Stop cracking your knuckles, you can get arthritis”? While this is in fact not true, arthritis does affect approximately 350 million people worldwide.
Arthritis causes pain and inflammation in your joints. It manifests itself in a number of painful, limiting ways, and attacks all kinds of patients, even young children and babies. The most common joints affected by arthritis are the hands, spine, knees, and hips.
Technically, pain is considered chronic when it lasts three to six months or longer, but arthritis pain can last a lifetime. The symptoms of arthritis depend on the type that you have and the location. While there are multiple types of arthritis, the two main types are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Symptoms of arthritis include:
· Joint pain and tenderness
· Inflammation in and around the joints
· Restricted movement of the joints
· Warm, red skin over the affected joint
Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis, which gets worse with age and is caused by wear and tear through the years. This type of arthritis affects the smooth cartilage that covers the ends of bones and acts as a cushion within joints. As the cartilage is worn down, movement becomes more difficult, leading to pain and stiffness.
Once the cartilage starts to roughen and thin out, the tendons and ligaments have to work harder. This can cause swelling and the formation of bony spurs, called osteophytes. Severe loss of cartilage can lead to bone rubbing on bone, altering the shape of the joint and forcing the bones out of their normal position.
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease. It occurs when the body’s immune system mistakenly targets the joints, which leads to pain and swelling. It affects the inner lining of the joint, called the synovium. Without early diagnosis and treatment, rheumatoid arthritis can damage cartilage and bone, leading to further swelling and a change in the joint’s shape.
People with rheumatoid arthritis can also develop problems with other tissues and organs in their body, such as the skin, eyes, lungs, heart, and blood vessels.
Tips for Managing Arthritis Pain
Some people suffer from arthritis pain every day, while for others it comes and goes. Regardless of how frequent your pain is, it can have a significant impact on your quality of life, making it more difficult to do everyday activities like cooking, cleaning, dressing, or taking care of the kids or grandkids.
Here are some tips to help you manage chronic arthritis pain:
1. Seek treatment from an orthopedic doctor, physiatrist, or rheumatologist. He or she may recommend medication, injections, or physical therapy to help ease your pain.
2. Be sure to take any prescription or over-the-counter drugs as advised by your doctor. They can help control inflammation and pain.
3. Exercise and stay active. Physical activity can help reduce joint pain and improve flexibility, balance, and strength.
4. Manage your weight. Keeping your weight down can relieve pressure on weight-bearing joints such as knees, hips, and ankles.
5. Eat a healthy diet. Eating foods such as vegetables, fresh fruit, whole grains, and lean protein not only helps control your weight, but it’s good for your heart and overall health.
6. Use hot and cold therapy. Enjoy a nice warm bath to ease stiff joints. If you have an especially painful flare-up with inflammation, apply ice.
7. Maintain a positive attitude. Try not to let pain get you down or interfere with your life. Do the things you enjoy to keep your mind off it.
If you’re living with chronic pain due to arthritis, it may be time to take a closer look at your symptoms and explore treatment options. Call Orthopaedic Associates of Central Maryland at (410) 644-1880 to speak with one of our orthopaedic doctors or physiatrists.