Have you ever looked at your hands and noticed any swelling or stiffness in the joints between your fingers? Or maybe your knees? Or elbows? Do you ache at the thought of moving because you know it will cause pain in your joints?
Sounds like you may have arthritis.
Don’t worry, you aren’t alone.
More than 50 million adults and 300,00 children have some type of arthritis. And did you know that there are more than 100 different types of arthritis and related conditions? (Arthritis.org)
The Arthritis Foundation is going to lay out some facts for us!
Arthritis can affect anyone! People of all ages, sexes, and races can and do have arthritis, and it is the leading cause of disability in America! Though it is more common in women and occurs more frequently as people age.
Mostly you hear of arthritis affecting the joints. Swelling, pain, stiffness and decreased range of motion are common symptoms. These symptoms may come and go, stay the same over time or progressively worsen, and may be mild, moderate or severe. In any way, arthritis is a real pain! Though the joints may be a popular spot, arthritis could also affect your heart, eyes, lungs, kidneys, and skin!
The Arthritis Foundation has broken down for us some of the different types of arthritis, remember there’s over 100 types!:
Osteoarthritis is the most common type. When the cartilage – the slick, cushioning surface on the ends of bones – wears away, bone rubs against bone, causing pain, swelling and stiffness.
Over time, joints can lost strength and pain may become chronic. Risk factors include excess weight, family history, age and previous injury (an ACL tear, for example).
When the joint symptoms of osteoarthritis are mild or moderate, they can be managed by:
- balancing activity with rest
- using hot and cold therapies
- regular physical activity
- maintaining a healthy weight
- strengthening the muscles around the joint for added support
- using assistive devices
- taking over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers or anti-inflammatory medicines
- avoiding excessive repetitive movements
If joint symptoms are severe, causing limited mobility and affecting quality of life, some of the above management strategies may be helpful, but joint replacement may be necessary.
Osteoarthritis can be prevented by staying active, maintaining a healthy weight, and avoiding injury and repetitive movements.
A healthy immune system is protective. It generates internal inflammation to get rid of infection and prevent disease. But sometimes the immune system can make a mistake and attack the joints with uncontrolled inflammation, which can later cause joint erosion and may even damage internal organs, eyes and other body parts. Rheumatoid arthritis and psoriatic arthritis are some examples of this.
Autoimmune and inflammatory types of arthritis, early diagnosis and aggressive treatment is critical. Slowing disease activity can prevent permanent joint damage. Remission is the goal and may be achieved through the use of one or more medication know as disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs). The goal of treatment is to reduce pain, improve function, and prevent further joint damage.
A bacterium, virus or fungus can enter the joint and trigger inflammation. examples of organisms that can infect joints are salmonella and shigella (food poisoning or contamination), chlamydia and gonorrhea (sexually transmitted infections) and hepatitis C (a blood-to-blood infection, often through shared needles or transfusions). In many cases, timely treatment with antibiotics may clear the joint infection, but sometimes the arthritis becomes chronic.
Uric acid is formed as the body breaks down purines, a substance found in human cells and in many foods. Some people have high levels of uric acid because they naturally produce more than is needed or the body can’t get rid of the uric acid quickly enough. In some people the uric acid builds up and forms needle-like crystals in the joint, resulting in sudden spikes of extreme joint pain, or a gout attack. Gout can come and go in episodes or, if uric acid levels aren’t reduced, it can become chronic, causing ongoing pain and disability.
So the question is: do you have arthritis?
Well, the first thing to do is to talk with your primary care physician. They can perform physical exams, may do blood tests and imaging scans to help determine the type of arthritis that you may have.
You can also see an arthritis specialist, also known as a rheumatologist. They are great if the diagnosis is uncertain or if the arthritis may be inflammatory.
And if, arthritis has begun to affect other body systems or parts, other specialists, such as ophthalmologists (eye doctors), dermatologists (skin doctors) or dentists (teeth doctors), may also be included in the health care team.
How can physical therapy help with my arthritis?
Every patient is different and so every treatment is customized to what the patient needs. With arthritis, the goals a physical therapist may set for a patient may include improving the mobility and restoring the use of the affected joints, and/or increasing strength to support the joints, and maintaining fitness and the ability to perform daily activities.
- teach you proper posture and body mechanics for common daily activities to relieve pain and improve function.
- show you how to properly use assistive devices such as walkers and canes.
- recommend different treatment options, such as braces and splints to support joints, shoe inserts to relieve stress on the lower extremities, and hot and cold therapy to ease joint pain and stiffness.
- suggest modifications to your environment, such as ergonomic chairs or a cushioned may in your kitchen, to relieve pain and improve function.
So, don’t let arthritis get your down. Come schedule with us today and lets get your back to being you!
**This blog is purely informational. Please do not use this to diagnose or treat. Speak to your doctor today.