The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that arthritis is now the number one cause of disability in the United States. Women are more affected than men by this disease.
The word arthritis brings to mind painful symptoms that result in stiff and sore joints. Arthritis attaches the joints in all areas of the body, including the hips, knees, shoulders, ankles and wrists. There are several types of arthritis, with the most common form being chronic in nature. Arthritis can flare up and cause a patient incredible pain for a long period of time.
Nearly 50% of all adults over the age of 65 have been diagnosed with some form of arthritis, according to the National Institute of Pain. This disease is extremely painful and widespread. Arthritis begins with an inflammation of the joint and if left untreated, may become crippling and disabling to the affected person.
Are There Warning Signs for Arthritis?
Arthritis does exhibit warning signs that warrant medical assessment. Some of the most common signs include:
Swelling in the joints
Stiffness of the joints
Ongoing pain in the joint
Redness or warmth when the joint is touched
Tenderness and pain, inflammation in the joint
Difficulty moving the joint with little mobility and range of motion
If you experience any of the above symptoms for longer than a couple of weeks, it is important to be assessed by a medical doctor. If you have been diagnosed with chronic arthritis, you do not have to live with the pain. Treatment is available and pain management can help you cope with the symptoms you experience when dealing with arthritis.
Can Arthritis Pain Be Treated?
The most common form of arthritis is osteoarthritis. This is a condition in which there is gradual wear and tear on the weight bearing joints that causes significant pain and inflammation. While there is no cure for arthritis, it can be treated and progression of the disease slowed.
One of the first steps in treating arthritis is to administer medication. Treatment may consist of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as naproxen or ibuprofen. These drugs reduce inflammation of the joints and alleviate much of the pain associated with arthritis. For many, especially those with osteoarthritis, medication is needed to take the edge off so that daily activities can be carried out with minimal pain.
Your pain specialist may recommend physical therapy treatment in combination with medication, as research shows that consistent exercise helps relieve some of the pain. Moving the joints keeps them flexible and fluid. Walking, low-impact aerobics, and strength training are all helpful in the reduction of chronic pain associated with arthritis. Just one treatment of physical therapy that includes active participation by the patient can offer significant relief from symptoms (Klepper, et al., Arthritis Care and Research, 2001).
Other forms of treatment available by a pain specialist in managing chronic symptoms associated with arthritis joint pain include the use of a TENS unit. This procedure may be carried out by a physical therapist and includes the use of electrical impulse stimulation to the affected area. The gentle pulsations provide relief from pain associated with arthritis (Ying, et al., King’s College London British Journal of Community Nursing, 2007).
Joint injections offer another form of treatment to manage pain related to arthritis. These injections consist of the insertion of a corticosteroid drug designed to reduce inflammation in the joint, decreasing pain and improving range of motion and mobility (Leslie, et al., Pain, 2010). In some cases, joint injections are administered in combination with other medication or with the use of physical therapy as a form of treatment. Combination therapy offers significant benefits for the arthritis sufferer.
Are There Preventative Measures for Arthritis that Can Be Taken?
There is no cure for arthritis, only pain and symptom management. Prevention is critical, although not always possible. There are contributing factors to the development of arthritis, including obesity, poor nutrition and lack of exercise. These are all preventative factors that can be adjusted whether you have or have not been diagnosed with arthritis. Your pain specialist may discuss with you the modifications that can be made at home to improve your daily living.
Weight control can improve your symptoms and ease the discomfort caused by pressure and inflammation on the joint. Warm and cold packs can be applied at home to help reduce a flare up, and soaking in a warm tub has been shown to help ease symptoms. Your pain specialist can help you design an at home remedy plan that will help you cope with the symptoms of arthritis.
Alternative therapies are also available to help you cope with the pain. See your doctor or pain specialist to discuss all of the options available to you for chronic arthritis pain. From physical therapy to acupuncture, there are a wide variety of non-invasive procedures that can be done to help relieve the pain.