From aching knees and sore elbows to joint cracking and popping, it’s all part of the territory when it comes to arthritis. Some 50 million people in the United States suffer from some level of arthritis, and as anyone who has arthritis knows, it’s not fun and can really put a damper on enjoying life to the fullest.
It’s the leading cause of disability among American workers and while it’s more common in older individuals, millions of younger adults and even children suffer from arthritis.
What is arthritis?
Arthritis is what happens when there is swelling of the joints and it typically worsens with age. The term “arthritis” is actually an umbrella term as there are over 100 variations, with rheumatoid and osteoarthritis being the two most prevalent we see at OASIS Hospital.
Rheumatoid arthritis is a form that attacks the body’s immune system, causing a breakdown of the lining around joints and eventually destroying both cartilage and bone within the joints.
Osteoarthritis, the most common kind, is caused by wear and tear and the natural breakdown of the cartilage that keeps our joints moving smoothly. It can occur over a lifetime or set in sooner because of an injury, infection, or simply family history of the disease.
The symptoms of arthritis can vary, but the most common include:
- Stiffness, swelling, and pain in joints
- Decreased range of motion
- Redness around joints
- Popping or cracking with bending
- Bony growths in joints
These symptoms may not be present in all individuals and may worsen over time if left untreated. Your physician will be able to pinpoint the primary symptoms of concern through a physical exam and recommend a treatment for your arthritis.
The main goal of our physicians is to relieve the pain and lack of mobility that arthritis causes, while preventing further joint damage. Treatment for arthritis may involve one or some combination of the following:
- Physical therapy
- Occupational therapy
- Heat and cold compress
- Diet recommendations
- Mobility assistance such as compression gloves or a cane
- Medications or supplements
While surgery is not usually the first treatment for arthritis, it is an option with surgeons typically either performing a joint fusion or replacing the joint with an artificial one to remove the inflammation. The goal is to restore a better quality of life and this can often be achieved to great effect through a variety of different treatments.
As with many diseases the best offense is a good defense and that means taking preventive measures in your lifestyle to reduce the likelihood of developing arthritis.
Two of the best things you can do to prevent arthritis are to eat a healthy diet and maintain a healthy body weight.
This means avoiding too many processed or fried foods and opting for a diet that is rich in antioxidants with fruits and veggies. While exercise is important for so many health reasons, strenuous and repetitive exercise can put pressure on joints. Many people find that swimming is a great exercise because it still provides healthy joint motion, but without the strenuous pressure that running puts on the body’s joints.