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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 50% of adults 65 and older have been diagnosed by a physician as suffering from arthritis. A disease that is characterized by inflammation of one or more joints, arthritis in its late stages can be crippling. There are different forms of arthritis, with osteoarthritis as the most common. As of yet, no cure for arthritis exists, however, there are medications, procedures and treatments that can alleviate some of the pain caused by this disease.
Osteoarthritis is a condition that is caused by gradual wear-and-tear on the joints. Obesity can be a factor in osteoarthritis, as it causes additional stress to weight-bearing joints in the body, such as the hips and the knees. Rheumatoid arthritis is not caused by deterioration, rather, it is caused by an auto-immune disorder that causes the body to attack its own tissues, which will cause the deterioration common to arthritic disorders.
Treatments for arthritis are generally non to minimally invasive and are conservative in nature. The first line of treatment for most forms of arthritis include non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications otherwise known as NSAIDs. This class of medication includes ibuprofen and naproxen. These medications can alleviate the chronic inflammation and pain that is associated with arthritis.
Consistent exercise is advisable, as movement helps keep the joints flexible and moving more fluidly. Walking, yoga, and water aerobics are among the best for those who suffer from arthritis as these activities are low impact. Sessions with a physical therapist can help immensely, as they can help devise an exercise and stretching regimen specific to the patient’s abilities and pain level.
Speaking with a physician about accommodations that can be made specifically for the specific condition can be helpful. For example, a physician can make a recommendation to purchase special grips for objects if a patient suffers from arthritis of the hand.
Many arthritis patients have seen an improvement in their pain through joint injections. These consist of a corticosteroid that is intended to reduce inflammation and pain in the joint. A treating physician may recommend a series of joint injections to improve a patient’s range of motion and quality of life.
Medial branch blocks have shown success for those who are suffering from back and neck pain due to arthritis. Facet joint arthritis is one of the leading causes of low back pain in adults. A medial branch block effectively reduces inflammation and irritation in the joints of the spine and often, relief from pain is immediate. Medial branch blocks may be performed multiple times at the discretion of the treating physician.
In severe cases, the only relief a patient may be offered is through full joint replacement. By replacing the damaged joint with a plastic and/or metal prosthesis, the patient may be returned to a pain free lifestyle, and may be able to resume the activities that they have had to abstain from due to arthritis pain. While knee and hip replacements are the most common, medical technology has advanced to include shoulder joint replacements, elbow joint replacements and finger joint replacements. While a replacement surgery may alleviate arthritis associated pain, recovery time post-surgery is often long and can have complications that are non-existent with less invasive options.