Coping with Arthritis

May is Arthritis Awareness Month

It’s a good time to educate yourself on this leading cause of work disability in the United States. Arthritis is an often painful and sometimes debilitating condition that effects more than 30% of the US adult population according to the CDC.

Arthritis is the term generally used for pain and stiffness in the joints and/or surrounding tissue though some types of the condition such as rheumatoid arthritis can affect the immune system and internal organs.  There are over a hundred forms of arthritis and symptoms vary depending on the form of the condition. They typically include:

*  Pain during standing, walking and/or movement
*  Tender, aching joints
*  Swelling, inflammation or redness around the joint
*  Stiffness in the joints
*  Loss of flexibility
*  Catching or clicking noise when you move the joint
*  Loss of strength

Causes of Arthritis

Arthritis is often caused by illness or injury, but the reason for many forms of arthritis is of yet unknown and still being researched.

Common Types of Arthritis

*  Sometimes called degenerative joint disease, Osteoarthritis occurs when the cartilage at the ends of the bones wears out. Symptoms of osteoarthritis usually develop slowly and worsen over time. They include pain and tenderness in the joints and stiff, sore joints that don’t move normally.

*  Rheumatoid Arthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis, or RA, is a chronic autoimmune disorder in which the immune system attacks the lining of the joints. RA causes swelling within the joints, which leads to significant joint deformity and pain. Rheumatoid arthritis can also cause fatigue, depression, and other symptoms.

*  Post Traumatic Arthritis. Any damage to the joint from a sport injury, fall or automobile accident can post traumatic arthritis. Symptoms of injury-related arthritis include joint pain and achiness, as well as swelling and inflammation in the joint due to fluid buildup.

This is a type of arthritis that is caused when uric acid builds up in the joints and forms sharp, needle-like crystals. Gout causes severe and sudden pain in the joints. If you have gout, you may wake up in the middle of the night feeling like your foot is on fire.

Arthritis Risk Factors

Some arthritis risk factors are within our control, others are not:

*  Aging: As we get older the risk increases

*  Sex: Women are more likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis than are men. Men are more susceptible to gout and other types of arthritis.

*  Injuries: People who have injured a joint are more likely to eventually develop arthritis in that joint.

*  Obesity: Obese people have a higher risk of developing arthritis because excess weight puts stress on joints.

*  Smoking: Studies show that people who smoke are more likely to develop arthritis, have more severe pain, and are more than twice as likely to have significant cartilage loss than nonsmokers. One study found that children who grew up with mothers who smoked were twice as likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis as adults.

*  Genetics: A study by the National Institute of Health found that genetic factors may play a role in 50 to 65 percent of cases of hand, hip, and knee osteoarthritis.


What You Can Do To Reduce Risk

Your lifestyle can have a major impact on your joints, so it is recommended that you:

*  Maintain a healthy weight. Even a few extra pounds can worsen your joint pain by putting strain and stress on your joints. If you have arthritis, losing even a few pounds can help significantly.

*  Regular exercise helps strengthen the tendons, ligaments, and muscles around your joints. This takes pressure off the joints and reduces joint pain. If you have joint pain, it can be difficult to get started with exercise. If that is the case, consider a low impact workout plan that i is easy on your joints such as water aerobics or cycling on a stationary bicycle.

*  Eat a healthy diet. A healthy diet is essential for keeping weight under control. Choose healthy fats like olive oil and make sure you get plenty of fruits and vegetables.

*  Stop Smoking. Smokers not only have a significantly higher risk of developing arthritis, they also have a much lower rate of response to psoriasis and arthritis medication.


While arthritis is not curable, in most cases it can be managed with physical therapy, lifestyle changes, medications, joint injections, radiofrequency ablation and other minimally invasive procedures.

Joint surgery is an option for people who are otherwise healthy and looking for more permanent solutions. Joint surgery can help relieve pain and restore function to a joint that is severely damaged.

For some people with very badly damaged joints, joint replacement surgery is an option. Newer surgical advances have made joint surgery safe and effective. Now doctors use customized instruments, small incisions, and innovative imaging techniques to perform joint surgery with less pain and scarring. Success rates are extremely high, and the recovery is fast.

Arthroscopy is a minimally invasive surgery used to diagnose and treat joint conditions. During the procedure, a surgeon inserts a tiny, flexible instrument with a camera into the joint. The camera is used to help the surgeon diagnose problems within the joint. In many cases, repairs to the joint can also be made during this surgery.

Joint replacement surgery is considered by the National Institutes of Health to be “one of the most cost-effective and successful interventions in medicine” but it is not for everyone. To find out more about joint replacement surgery and to see if you could be a candidate watch this video.

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