Understanding Arthritis Pain and Relief

Arthritis is thought to be the number one cause of disability in the America today. Read an informative guide on understanding arthritis pain and relief.

Arthritis is the number one cause of disability in the U.S. today. Arthritis is not a singular disease, however. Hundreds of arthritic types and conditions exist, each having similar and different symptoms among them. Many conditions and diseases contributing to arthritis symptoms are curable, even though arthritis itself is not. Numerous types of medical and home-based treatments are available to manage its symptoms, however, and offer a significant amount of relief from associated pain. Continue reading for an informative guide on understanding arthritis pain and relief today.

What Is Arthritis? Learn the Basics Here

Arthritis is commonly mistaken for a singular disease or condition. In truth, hundreds of arthritis types exist, each having unique symptoms and issues. Each type of arthritis also has similarities to the others as well. From an overview perspective, arthritis is defined as tenderness, swelling and pain in one or multiple joints. From a more focused perspective, rheumatoid and osteoarthritis are the two most typical types of arthritis experienced by those afflicted. More specifically, additional types of arthritis and arthritic conditions include gout, ankylosing spondylitis and psoriatic, septic, reactive, juvenile idiopathic and thumb arthritis.

How Many People Does Arthritis Affect?

Arthritis is the number-one cause of disability in the U.S. and the statistics are somewhat staggering. Approximately ninety-two million American adults are afflicted with some type of arthritis. Arthritis is not discriminatory, however, as it also affects over three hundred thousand children in U.S. alone. Approximately sixty percent of people suffering from arthritis are of functional working ages. Approximately eight to nine percent of those with the disease experience physical limitations at work and in daily life.

Overview of Symptoms

Most people with arthritis suffer from more common and less painful types and versions. Some, however, experience debilitating symptoms to such a degree their lives are heavily impacted by the disease. One problem with diagnosing arthritis is the multifaceted and stealthy way it attacks the human body. Arthritis is sometimes impossible to detect with the human eye alone and often requires extensive medical examinations and imaging (X-rays, MRIs, etc.) to be accurately diagnosed.

Symptoms range in intensity depending on the type of arthritis and the condition of the person afflicted. Arthritis is also commonly described as a painful inflammation of one or more joints, and pain is the most common symptom experienced. People suffering from arthritis also report experiencing tenderness, stiffness, and a feeling of brittleness in their joints and bones. Swelling in afflicted areas is also common, as are limitations in mobility and an inability to grip or hold even light objects (forks, socks, keys, etc.).

Body Parts Commonly Affected by Arthritis

Body parts most affected by arthritis include the knees, hands, ankles, feet and shoulders. The disease affects many other parts and areas of the body as well, however, depending on the type. Different types of arthritis also impact the skin, bones, eyes, mouth, lungs, heart, liver, kidneys, blood vessels and the blood itself. One of the most common types of arthritis experienced today (rheumatoid) is a systemic disease, which means it can affect multiple or even all parts of the body.

Explaining the Different Types of Arthritis

Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common type of arthritis today. Osteoarthritis depletes your cartilage of its elasticity and strength. Cartilage is a hard albeit slippery tissue, which covers the end-points of bones where the joints are formed. Osteoarthritis is also referred to as degenerative joint disease and causes pain, swelling, reduced mobility, stiffness, and even permanent disability.

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) causes the immune system to attack your joints, starting at the joint linings. RA works its way inward, steadily impacting deeper areas of your body until it potentially reaches your bloodstream. Damages cause by RA cause chronic (long-term) pain, unsteady balance, and physical deformities. RA also adversely impacts vision and breathing if it reaches the eyes and lungs.

Gout is yet another common arthritic condition. Gout attacks occur suddenly, causing significant joint pain. Gout pain commonly begins at the base of the big toe and works its way up. Additional types of arthritis and brief explanations of their symptoms include:

  • Lupus (serious type of arthritis; attacks internal organs; causes all-day pain).
  • Psoriatic (affects any body part including spine and fingertips; cause pain, stiffness and swelling; common to people diagnosed with psoriasis).
  • Septic (painful bloodstream-based infection; caused by germs penetrating joints; common to people with artificial joints; causes severe damage; required draining with needles and antibiotics).
  • Reactive (triggered by infections; causes join pain and swelling; impacts knees and ankle and foot joints first; symptoms last approximately twelve months).
  • Thumb (common with aging; affects carpometacarpal joint; severe pain and swelling; might require surgery).

Arthritis - What Are its Causes?

The specific causes of some types of arthritis are largely up for debate. Other causes, however, are scientifically proven and widely agreed upon within the medical and scientific communities. A high level of uric acid (a waste byproduct) is commonly agreed to as the primary cause of gout. Uric acid crystals form when too much uric acid exists in your blood. Underlying diseases and multiple types of infections also cause arthritis. The number of diseases and infections leading to arthritic symptoms are so numerous it is hard to isolate one over others as a primary cause of arthritis in some cases, however. Disagreements exist over natural, dietary, and environmental causes of arthritis as well. Some scientists and medical professionals believe the consumption of red meat is a primary cause of arthritis, while others do not believe this to be true. The same discrepancies in viewpoints exist pursuant to smoking, drinking alcohol and consuming sugar.

Treatment Options for Various Types of Arthritis Pain

Arthritis treatments include prescription medications, physical therapy, surgeries and clinical trials. Arthritis medications include painkillers (tramadol, oxycontin, hydrocodone, etc.), corticosteroids (prednisone, cortisone, etc.), nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), counterirritants, disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) and biologic response modifiers. Alternative treatments such as yoga, exercise, acupuncture, dietary and lifestyle changes are also prescribed. Meditation, massages, hot and cold treatments, and proper hydration are known to have positive effects on arthritis for some people.

What Types of Medical Specialists Treat Arthritis?

A wide range of medical specialists and professionals work to treat arthritis and its symptoms. Rheumatologists and orthopedists are arthritis specialists, however, and are the most common types of practitioners seen to treat the disease. Additional types of medical specialists who treat arthritis include:

  • Internists.
  • Pediatricians (child arthritis cases).
  • Podiatrists.
  • Occupations and physical therapists.
  • Physiatrists.