Arthritis is a disease characterized by joint inflammation that causes pain, swelling, stiffness and may limit movement. A joint is anywhere in the body where two or more bones connect.
Arthritis is a progressive disease that generally develops slowly over time. It’s a common cause of chronic pain. The disease may lead to a permanent disability.
Severe joint pain that comes on suddenly, or is accompanied by a fever or chills may indicate a bacterial infection. Immediate medical attention is advised.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, reported that 50% of adults 65 and older, have physician-diagnosed arthritis (CDC). The disease causes inflammation of one or more joints, and may include the surrounding tissues, ligaments and muscles, as well as related joint structures.
There are over 100 different types of arthritis. The two most common types are Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis. Osteoarthritis is the most common (Mayo). Although there is no known cure for arthritis, there are many treatment options available for pain relief and management.
Common treatment options for arthritis sufferers include: medications, procedures and other treatments, such as physical therapy.
Arthritis, also called osteoarthritis or degenerative arthritis, involves the swelling and damage of the body’s joints. The condition causes pain and stiffness and limits joint movement. Because the hips are major weight-bearing joints, they are at risk for osteoarthritis.
Arthritis, also called osteoarthritis or degenerative arthritis, involves the swelling and damage of the joints. It causes pain, stiffness and limited movement. Since knees are the primary weight-bearing joints in the body, they are most at risk for osteoarthritis. Risk factors include age, heredity, injury and obesity.
Osteoarthritis is a gradual deterioration (wear-and-tear) of the joints. Slowly over time the joint cartilage breaks down, from injury or trauma, or as part of the aging process. Cartilage is the rubbery tissue that cushions bones at the joints. It’s most common in the hands, hips, knees and back. Obesity may contribute to developing OA. The additional weight causes increased stress on the joints in the body; especially weight-bearing joints, such as the hips and the knees.
Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)
Rheumatoid Arthritis is an auto-immune disease. RA causes the body to attack its own tissues, much like it would a bacteria or virus. RA pain often occurs intermittently and is referred to as flare-ups. RA often affects the synovium, a thin membrane that lines the joints. This leads to a fluid buildup in the joints, which causes painful swelling and stiffness and may result in permanent joint damage.
It’s advised to consult with a physician before starting any new treatment or activity.
Medications are a traditional treatment option for managing most types of arthritis pain. Over-the-counter medications include the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications, NSAIDs, such as Ibuprofen (Motrin) and Acetaminophen (Tylenol).These types of medications offer the potential to for signficant pain relief. NSAIDs can reduce the chronic inflammation that causes the common painful swelling and stiffness of arthritis.
Prescription medications, such as oral corticosteroids (Prednisone) may become part of a pain management plan in cases of advanced arthritis.
Regular exercise is beneficial for most people with arthritis Body movement helps keep the joints flexible, improving and maintaining movement, and builds muscle to support the joints. Low-impact physical activities, such as walking, water exercises and yoga are considered among the best activities for those with arthritis.
Meeting with a physical therapist may prove helpful for those with arthritis. The physical therapy assists with improving and maintaining range of motion for the joints and building body strength. A physical therapist can create a specific exercise program designed for the individual’s abilities, limitations and goals.
Talking with a physician or occupational therapist about assistive devices for daily routines can be helpful. These kinds of devices are designed for specific conditions and physical limitations. For example, purchasing special grips to grab and manipulate objects, might assist those with arthritis in their hands.
Joint Injection Procedures
A corticosteroid (steroid) is injected into the joint or close to the joint to reduce inflammation and pain. A physician may recommend multiple joint injections, depending on the outcome of the first injection.
Medial Branch Blocks (MBBs) are one type of joint injection to treat arthritis in the spine. MBBs have shown to be a highly effective treatment for back and neck pain.
MBBs have increased in the Medicare population from 1994 to 2001 (Friedly 2007). This procedure has increased, due to successful pain relief outcomes.
Facet joint arthritis is a common cause of low-back pain in adults. Facet joints come in pairs and are on the top and bottom of each vertebra (spinal bones).
Medial branches are small spinal nerves. These nerves branch out from the facet joints. A MBB reduces inflammation and irritation caused by the medial branch nerves.
Often there is immediate and long-lasting pain relief from a MBB.
Joint Replacement Surgery
In cases of advanced arthritis, when pain isn’t managed successful with other treatments, or the joint is severely damaged and joint movement is greatly impaired, a full or partial joint replacement may be necessary. This is generally performed by an orthopedic surgeon.
The damaged joint, or a portion of the joint, is replaced with a plastic and/or metal prosthesis. After a recovery period, the patient may experience a pain-free life; and resume daily activities or other activities that weren’t possible before the surgery. Knee and hip replacements are the most common replacement surgeries.
Replacement surgery may alleviate severe and painful arthritis symptoms; but the recovery time after surgery is much longer, often taking months. In addition, there are higher associated risks and complications that don’t exist with less invasive treatment options.