Being diagnosed with arthritis can make you feel helpless...but knowledge can help you take back some power after a diagnosis. Millions of people around the world are affected, yet many have fulfilling, quality, active lives. We’re here to present the basics of what you need to know to stay informed on this condition and manage it in the best way possible.
What is Arthritis?
Many people don’t know that arthritis is just a general term for any inflammation around a joint. There are over 100 types of arthritis, but osteoarthritis- a mechanical breakdown of cartilage between the bones of a joint- is the most common type.
On the other hand, Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune condition, meaning that your immune system breaks down your cartilage. Finding out what type of arthritis you have is the first step to preventing and reducing pain.
Who is most impacted by arthritis?
Even though the risk of osteoarthritis increases with age, about two-thirds of people with arthritis are under 65! This takes into account everything from RA, arthritis from lupus, childhood arthritis, gout, fibromyalgia and more. Women are also three times more likely to be diagnosed with RA.
What Causes Arthritis?
It isn’t usually caused by just one thing, but a combination of lifestyle, environment and genetics. Though, there are risk factors that can add up to higher likelihood of developing it:
- Being overweight
- Joint injuries
- Jobs with repetitive movements
- Certain joint infections
Does “Popping” or “Cracking” Your joints Put You at Risk For Arthritis?
Fortunately, no, it doesn’t. The popping noises from your joints is just air bubbles in the synovial fluid in between your joints. Feel free to keep cracking your knuckles!
Heads up, if you already have arthritis, then these noises can happen pretty regularly due to loss of smooth, protective cartilage.
How is Arthritis Diagnosed?
Doctors will usually ask about any symptoms such as pain, stiffness or numbness before doing any tests. They may test how much range of motion you have and take note of any swelling or rashes in the area.
If enough red flags appear, your doctor might want to test your blood, urine, or the fluid in your joints. Depending on the type of arthritis they suspect, they might do an imaging test like an x-ray, CT, MRI, or an ultrasound.
What types of treatment are available for Arthritis?
Reducing pain and stiffness are significant aspects of treating arthritis. There are some steps you can take yourself, without medication:
- Hot/cold therapy
- Physical therapy
- Joint protection
- And more
It all boils down to how mild or severe your symptoms are; under the care of a doctor, these strategies have been proven pretty successful. Next up are some commonly prescribed (and over the counter) options for those that prefer (or have a severe enough condition for) medication as well:
- Aspirin, ibuprofen, and other NSAIDs
- Corticosteroids in pill or injection form
- Certain sleep medications
There are pros and cons to everything, so be sure to weigh these out when deciding how you and your doctor should go about treating your symptoms.
Should I Still Exercise with Arthritis?
Yes, absolutely. Regular exercise is said to lessen pain, improve flexibility, and even lessen fatigue for those with arthritis (and without!). Range-of-motion exercises are meant to prevent further stiffness, strengthening exercises are great for keeping the muscles supportive around joints, and endurance exercise can help keep your weight down- placing less pressure on your body and joints.
You can always talk with your doctor about effective exercises for your age, fitness level and type of arthritis. Remember that avoiding pain can sometimes be a combination of these above recommendations.
Will I Need Surgery For Arthritis?
Most people with arthritis do not undergo surgery. There are really only two categories of surgery for treatment: one is where bone and cartilage is reformed, and the other requires a whole replacement of the joint. Each surgery comes with its own set of risks, so we advise talking to several orthopedic surgeons and getting their opinions. For some, surgery is too much of an inconvenience, or costly, especially due to the amount of time and therapy it takes to fully recover.
While living with arthritis can be a stressful experience, newer technologies and treatments have made leaps and bounds to help people better understand and cope with the condition.
Tip: Insoles are a great way to decrease pressure on the joints of your ankles and knees and move through your day (and life!) with no pain!