Arthritis Treatment

What is arthritis?

doctor examining patient leg

Arthritis refers to more than 100 diseases that cause pain, stiffness and swelling from the inflammation of a joint or the area around a joint. It is the No. 1 cause of chronic disability in the United States, affecting nearly 40 million people. Because there are so many different forms of arthritis, the causes are likely to vary. Scientists are examining how genetics, lifestyles and other factors affect the development of arthritis.

What Is Osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis is the most-common type of arthritis. It is a non-inflammatory degenerative joint disease characterized by the breakdown of cartilage in one or more joints. The exact cause of osteoarthritis is unknown. About 21 million Americans, usually middle-aged and older, have osteoarthritis.

What Is Fibromyalgia?

Fibromyalgia, the second most-common type of arthritis, causes pain in muscles or joints with no signs of infection. It often is misdiagnosed as chronic fatigue syndrome. About 3.7 million Americans have fibromyalgia; 70 percent to 90 percent are women 20 to 50 years old.

What Is Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Rheumatoid and some of other types of arthritis affect the synovium, a membrane that lines a joint and seals it into a joint. When it becomes inflamed, chemicals that thicken the synovium and damage cartilage and bone are released. Symptoms are pain and swelling.

Hip Cartilage & Arthritis

In a healthy hip, cartilage cushions the area surrounding the hip ball and socket to allow easy movement without pain. In an unhealthy hip, cartilage is damaged or worn away, causing pain from bones rubbing and grinding together.

Knee Cartilage & Arthritis

In a healthy knee, cartilage protects and cushions bone surfaces that come together at the joint, allowing bones to move without friction. In an unhealthy knee, cartilage is damaged or worn away, causing pain from bones rubbing together.

Symptoms of Arthritis

Pain from arthritis can be continuous or it may come and go. It may occur after activity or exercise, but it also may happen if you have been resting. Pain may be concentrated in one spot or you may feel it all over your body. Joints may feel stiff and difficult to move. Daily chores such as climbing stairs and opening cans may become a challenge. You may notice that pain is more severe during certain times of the day or after performing certain tasks.

Some kinds of arthritis cause swelling or inflammation. The skin over the joint may appear swollen and red, and feel hot when touched. Arthritis also may cause fatigue.

How Can I Know if I Have Arthritis?

Early diagnosis and treatment are crucial to slowing or preventing joint damage. Only a physician can determine if you have arthritis and what type it is. Diagnosis is based on the overall pattern of symptoms, medical history, physical examination, X-rays and laboratory tests.

Arthritis Treatment Options

Because there are different types of arthritis, there are different symptoms and treatments. Care for arthritis often involves more than one type of treatment, and treatment may vary over time. Ask your physician about the best treatment options for you.

  • Exercise – Regular exercise is important because it keeps your body moving and flexible. It helps lessen pain, reduce fatigue and increase movement, and it helps you look and feel better.
  • Heat or cold – Applying heat or cold over joints may provide short-term relief from pain and stiffness.
  • Joint protection – Protect joints by learning to use them in ways that avoid excess stress. Avoid using sore and weak joints. Use larger joints when carrying heavy items (unless larger joints are sore). Walking with an assistive device such as a cane is helpful. Controlling your weight helps ease the pain by reducing stress on your joints.
  • Medicine – Many prescription and over-the-counter medicines are used to treat arthritis. Common medicines are anti-inflammatory drugs, aspirin-free pain relievers, corticosteroids, disease modifiers and sleep aids.
  • Pacing activities – Pacing helps protect your joints by alternating periods of activity with periods of rest so your joints don’t tire from the stress of repeated tasks.
  • Self-help skills – You can learn ways to manage how arthritis affects you emotionally by doing mental exercises, talking about your feelings with family members and friends, and joining a local arthritis support group.
  • Surgery – Most people with arthritis will not need surgery. But it may be effective in eliminating pain when other treatment methods have failed.

The Arthritis Foundation and American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons Websites contain many articles and patient education information that you may find helpful. Have more questions about your arthritis and our treatment capabilities? Call us today.