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Arthritis is one of the most widespread medical conditions faced by Americans of all ages.
A recent study conducted by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicated that 50 percent of adults 65 or older suffer from arthritis; it’s a painful chronic disease that disrupts a person’s life, and often eludes effective solutions. For these reasons, a diagnosis of arthritis can be intimidating for a patient.
The hallmarks of arthritis include the inflammation of one or more joints due to a variety of reasons; in the late stages, arthritis can be crippling.
There are different forms of arthritis, with osteoarthritis as the most common. Also known as degenerative arthritis, osteoarthritis involves the degradation of joints – including the cartilage and bones – over a period of time.
Symptoms emerge during daily activities that require movement, and can be especially painful when any stress is placed on joints. The symptoms include pain and discomfort, stiffness and locking. The causes of osteoarthritis are numerous, and include genetic factors, developmental or congenital issues, improper bone alignment, injury and obesity. All of these factors can lead to a loss in cartilage, which accelerates osteoarthritis’ progression.
Contrary to popular opinion, osteoarthritis is not caused by aging in and of itself; although it is a common condition among those in the aged population. On the other hand, rheumatoid arthritis is not caused by deterioration. It is caused by an auto-immune disorder that causes the body to attack its own tissues. This causes the deterioration that is similar to those caused by other arthritic disorders.
So far, there is no cure for arthritis, but the good news is that there are medications, procedures and treatments that can to a large extent alleviate arthritis pain, and allow patients to pursue physical activities with minimal, or no pain.
Those treatments include a variety of lifestyle changes, and also non- to minimally-invasive procedures that provide conservative, but significant pain relief. First-line treatments for most forms of arthritis include non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory medications otherwise known as NSAIDs. This class of medication, commonly known as ibuprofen and naproxen, reduces inflammation, which is the source of chronic arthritis pain.
Joint injections have also offered patients significant and long-lasting improvement in arthritis-related pain. Injections consist of a corticosteroid that effectively reduces inflammation and pain in the effected joints.
Medial branch blocks show tremendous promise for patients that suffer 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 reduces inflammation and irritation in the joints of the spine and often, relief from pain is realized immediately. A physician may recommend an arthritis therapy comprised of a series of joint injections to improve a patient’s range of motion and quality of life.
Severe cases of arthritis may require a more aggressive intervention. In these cases, the only hope of relief is through full joint replacement. Replacing damaged joints with plastic, or metal prosthetics offers a patient the opportunity to return to a pain free lifestyle; one that makes possible the ability to resume activities from which he or she had previously abstained from.
Although knee and hip replacements are common, medical technology has evolved to include shoulder joint replacements, elbow joint replacements and finger joint replacements. Replacement surgery may relieve arthritis-associated pain, but it’s important to note that post-surgery recovery time is often long and can have numerous complications that are non-existent with less invasive options.
Physicians will also recommend exercise to help keep patient’s joints flexible and increase joint fluidity. Walking, yoga and water aerobics are considered to the most productive activities for those who suffer from arthritis, because they are low impact. Arthritis therapy sessions with a physical therapist can help because a therapist can develop an exercise and stretching regimen specific to the patient’s needs.
Additionally, because arthritis is caused by joint wear-and-tear, a patient may be placed on a diet if obesity is a problem. Obesity can cause excess stress to weight-bearing joints like the hips and knees.
In most cases, treatment will involve a combination of exercise and diet, lifestyle modification, and medical intervention.
People suffering from arthritis about treatment options and accommodations that can be made to make daily life easier, such as buying hand grips or lifts that make movement possible.
Although arthritis treatments and therapy cannot cure the condition, an effective course of treatment can bring some relief from chronic pain. Book an appointment to discover what is most effective for you.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Website: http://www.cdc.gov/arthritis/data_statistics/arthritis_related_stats.htm
- Mayo Clinic Website: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/osteoarthritis/DS00019