Top Tips for Alleviating the Most Painful Symptoms of Arthritis
Arthritis can be a truly debilitating condition. It is considered one of the leading causes of pain and disability throughout the world, according to Mayo Clinic. The disease involves swelling, soreness, and inflammation in the joints. Unfortunately, the condition usually grows more uncomfortable and painful with age. There are two main types of arthritis that cause damage to the joints and lead to specific symptoms: osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
Osteoarthritis is the most common kind of arthritis, although there are more than 100 different kinds of arthritis altogether. It’s also referred to sometimes as the “wear and tear” arthritis, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. This specific type, which is much more common in older patients, leads to cartilage around the joints breaking down. Articular cartilage is the hard coating at the end of bones where they meet each other to create a joint, and its role is to facilitate smooth movement of the joint without friction. But with the wear and tear of osteoarthritis over time, bones can painfully grind against one another, and movement can become more challenging. The disease can lead to inflammation of the joint lining and a gradual breakdown in connective tissues.
Rheumatoid arthritis involves the immune system’s attack on the lining of the joints, otherwise known as the synovium. That lining is a tough membrane responsible for encapsulating all the various parts of the joint. It becomes swollen and inflamed. Cartilage and the actual bones can be destroyed by rheumatoid arthritis over time. This chronic disease that is found more commonly in women can affect multiple areas of the body but usually starts out in the small joints found in hands and feet. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons indicates that the same joints on both sides of the body are usually affected.
The most common signs and symptoms typically occur gradually over time and can include joints that are stiff, pain, swelling, and a decreased range of motion. Arthritis doesn’t have to limit people from living a full life. Symptoms can be managed in a wide variety of ways. Many claim that regular movement helps to decrease stiffness, whether that involves simple, gentle stretching to lubricate the joints or more rigorous exercise which focuses on endurance and stamina. Mayo Clinic notes that working with a physical or occupational therapist to pinpoint just the right movements for each individual patient’s unique needs might help when developing an exercise routine. Stretching and gradual progressive strength training is a great place to start! Walking, biking, and swimming are popular options too. Any activities that are too strenuous, involving high impact and are too repetitive are to be avoided for people who suffer from arthritis. These include exercise such as jumping, demanding aerobics, tennis, and jogging. Lifestyle changes that include regular movement are essential for pain relief associated with arthritis. Splints or braces are sometimes used in physical therapy when exercising.
Avoiding extra weight is also a helpful way to reduce the painful symptoms of arthritis. Obesity can increase complications from the disease, according to Mayo Clinic. It adds unnecessary stress onto joints and affects already problematic areas, such as the knees, hips, and spine. Being overweight can increase pain, stiffness, and swelling. Additionally, quitting a smoking habit can reduce the stress that is put on connective tissue through toxins and can decrease pain associated with arthritis.
Many over-the-counter medications are available to help manage arthritic pain. Those include acetaminophen, like Tylenol. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen – Advil and Motrin – or naproxen – like Aleve – are also potent in relieving pain and inflammation. These medications can help soothe the pain that occasionally flares up due to regular, everyday activities. Topical creams are also available. Some contain capsaicin while others rely on more homeopathic options such as essential oils. Corticosteroids can suppress the immune system’s reaction, soothing inflammation. These can be taken orally or via injections to the most affected joints. Alternating the use of heating pads and cold compresses may work to reduce inflammation. Long, hot baths can soothe the pain temporarily. Ice packs can soothe the discomfort that might occur directly following exercise. Massage therapy is a popular choice for soothing aches, pains, and stiffness. A licensed massage therapist should be informed about where the most severe arthritic symptoms are.
Occasionally, surgical intervention may become necessary. Joint repair surgery involves smoothing out or realigning joint surfaces. Joint replacement surgery entails removing the damaged joint to replace it. Hips and knees are most commonly replaced. Joints can likewise be fused together during surgery to keep bones locked into place, otherwise known as arthrodesis. The goal with surgery is often to seek long-term relief from joint pain and not just the occasional reprieve offered by medication.
Like with any medical issue, it is essential to seek medical information from reliable sources and reach out for medical support from professionals in your community. Recognizing the early signs and symptoms of arthritis is helpful. Researching evidence-based treatments and consulting with a medical advisor is a safe bet. This article is intended for information purposes only.
American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS)