Arthritis (or joint disease or joint pain) is an inflammation and stiffness of one or more joints. Don’t hesitate to get in touch with Axon Health Associates for a thorough evaluation, accurate diagnosis, and personalized treatment plan.
What Is Arthritis?
Arthritis is a broad condition that covers more than 100 rheumatic diseases and conditions affecting your joints. Arthritis is the inflammation or degeneration (breakdown) of joints. The inflammation can also affect ligaments and tendons around the joints. The condition occurs when cartilage wears out and cannot cushion the bones affecting normal function. Symptoms can be sudden or gradual, affecting the ability to perform usual tasks and making walking or climbing the stairs difficult. The inflammation worsens with age. It usually affects the following areas of the body:
- Lower back
At times arthritis comes up due to injuries; for example, an injured knee in younger years can develop into arthritis later in life. Left untreated, the disease can cause complications such as pain, disability, premature death, walking difficulties, joint deformity, and permanent joint damage. Arthritis is a chronic condition with no cure. The treatments are meant to reduce pain and inflammation and preserve joint function. It’s typically a progressive disease that worsens over time.
Types of Arthritis
There are different types of arthritis. The most common include:
Osteoarthritis: This affects the larger weight-bearing joints. The joint cartilage breaks down from repeated stress. It commonly affects the lower back, hips, neck, fingers, and toes. It is the most common type of arthritis.
Rheumatoid arthritis: It mistakenly causes the immune system to attack the synovial membranes in joints. It can affect joints in any body part, often in the hands, knees, and wrists.
Gout: This attacks joints of the big toe and other joints like the knee and the ankle. The condition occurs when the body cannot get rid of excess uric acid leading to the formation of hard crystals in the joints. This causes inflammation and severe pain.
Ankylosing spondylitis: Is the arthritis of the spine (usually the lower back).
Reactive arthritis: Infections in other body parts cause joint pain and inflammation.
Septic arthritis: This is a painful joint infection caused by germs traveling from other body parts through the bloodstream. Knees, hips, and shoulders are commonly affected.
Causes of Arthritis
The cause varies depending on the type of arthritis. Some types have no apparent cause and appear unpredictably. Arthritis may be caused by:
- Genes or Family history of arthritis
- Trauma from a fall or injured knee, and later develops to arthritis
- Inflammation or tear and wear of the cartilage over the years
- Underlying diseases like the autoimmune or viral diseases
- Repetitive motions
- Excessive activity
- Sex (women are more prone to rheumatoid arthritis while men its gout)
- Muscle weakness
Symptoms vary depending on the type of arthritis and can be mild to severe joint pains that come and go and progressively get worse over time. Common symptoms include:
- Joint pain
- Swelling with redness and the skin feeling warm to the touch over the affected joint
- Changes in the nails
- Stiffness or restricted joint movement
- Weight loss, weakness, and muscle wasting
- Popping or cracking sounds in joints
- Difficulties walking, climbing stairs, standing up from a sitting position or after sitting for a while
- Deformities of the knee
- Inflammation around the affected joints
During your diagnosis, your doctor will:
- Ask you about your medical history and related health conditions
- Do a physical examination which includes mobility assessment and range of motion
- Do an overall health evaluation to determine if you have an underlying condition
- Check areas of tenderness or swelling
Your doctor may also order other tests to identify the cause of pain and mobility loss, such as:
- X-rays to show joint space narrowing, bone damage, and bone spurs and track progression of the disease muscle, ligament injuries, and soft tissue inflammation.
- MRI for details of cross-sectional images of ligaments, tendons, or cartilage.
- CT-Scan for internal structures, bones, and soft tissues.
- Ultrasound image of soft tissues, cartilage, and fluid-containing structures near the joints (bursa).
- Urine or blood tests like erythrocyte sedimentation(ESR) to test levels of inflammation of protein.
- Joint fluids are analyzed to determine the type of arthritis.
There is no cure, but treatments help manage the conditions, slow progression, manage symptoms and keep you mobile. Treatment depends on the severity, symptoms, and overall health. There are medical and surgical treatments depending on the type of arthritis. Minimal or no signs may not require treatment, but where there is inflammation, treatment is needed. Treatment may involve a combination of:
- Medicines like NSAIDs, corticosteroid injections, counterirritants, rubbing creams, and ointments containing menthol or capsaicin. Topical ointments, creams, sprays, and wrap gels relieve pain and inflammation.
- Exercise improves range of motion and strengthens joint muscles; low-impact physical activities like walking, cycling, or water exercise.
- Diet to manage weight to avoid osteoarthritis due to obesity like eating bananas and plantains, salmon, blueberries, lobster, green tea, tofu, orange juice, and fresh pineapple juice may help.
- Therapies like heat or ice, long warm showers. Use of an electric blanket or moist healing pad to reduce discomfort overnight.
- Mobility assistant devices like a walker or cane can be used to help in balancing.
- Braces to reduce tension in the affected joints
- Supplements and omega-three capsules
- Physiotherapy to strengthen the muscles around the affected joint
- Replace the affected joint with an artificial one or do partial surgeries to remove damaged tissue (debridement)
- Joint fusion (arthrodesis-inserting plate and screws) to eliminate the affected joints commonly done for wrists, ankles, or fingers
Other treatments include:
- Stress management
- Yoga and tai chi
Arthritis Management Tips
Exercise and physical therapy reliefs are helpful. You can also work with an occupational therapist to help you manage physical challenges.
- Manage your weight
- Have a lifestyle change, including a healthy diet
- Avoid smoking or tobacco-based products
- Have protective equipment for activities and sports
- Use joint protective gear and appropriate work techniques
- Clear space to avoid any slips or falls
- Use proper tools, don’t stand on chairs or tables
- Follow instructions given by the doctor or physical therapist
- Get immediate treatment to avoid permanent damage
- Report any unusual pain or swells
- Take a self-management course on arthritis care
- To minimize joint pain, lessen activities
At Axon Health Associates, we understand living with arthritis is not easy. We can help manage arthritis through a personalized treatment plan to reduce symptoms and improve mobility and your quality of life. For more information, contact us today or schedule an appointment online. We are glad to help.