Ways to Treat Pain, Discomfort, and Inflammation
If you or a family member are currently battling rheumatoid arthritis, then you already know how debilitating it can be. Inflamed joints, stiffness, and pain are just some of the many symptoms that affect over 54 million Americans today who suffer from arthritis. It’s also the leading cause of employee disability claims. In fact, approximately 60% of those dealing with arthritis are of working age.
Fortunately, if you are one of the many who are dealing with arthritis, there are measures you can take in order to alleviate your symptoms. Before we delve into that, let’s break down the different types of arthritis and its symptoms.
What Are the Different Types of Arthritis?
Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis and usually affects the hands, knees, hips, or spine. It occurs when the protective cartilage that cushions the end of the bones wears down, usually due to age. Symptoms of osteoarthritis include pain, stiffness, tenderness, loss of flexibility, and swelling. In severe cases, a person may experience bone spurs or a grating sensation when using the joint.
The second type of arthritis is known as rheumatoid arthritis, which is a chronic inflammatory disorder and is less common than osteoarthritis. It occurs when your immune system attacks the lining of your membranes that surround your joints, known as the synovium. Rheumatoid arthritis causes painful swelling or tenderness, especially in the fingers or toes. About 40% of people experience symptoms in parts of the body that don’t have joints, such as the lungs, heart, kidney, or eyes.
Gout is the third type of arthritis. It is caused when urate crystals (developed from uric acid) accumulate in your joint, which will cause inflammation, tenderness, and periods of extreme pain. Gout can affect any joint, but most commonly occurs in the joint of the big toe.
In order to determine what type of arthritis you have, it’s important that you have a doctor perform the necessary tests so that it is correctly diagnosed and treated. Typical tests include X-rays, MRIs, blood tests, joint fluid analysis, and ultrasounds.
What Are the Methods of Treating Arthritis?
Once it’s been determined what type of arthritis you have, you can then move on to treatment. Keep in mind, there is no one-size-fits-all treatment for arthritis, so it’s best to go into this phase expecting some trial and error. For clarity, the following treatments are broken down by arthritis type.
Osteoarthritis cannot be reversed, so the focus of your treatment is going to be reducing your pain/discomfort level and improving mobility. Over-the-counter medications that have proven to be effective include acetaminophen (Tylenol), oral nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen (Advil), topical NSAIDs applied on the skin over the affected area, and duloxetine (Cymbalta). All medications should be taken at recommended levels to avoid adverse side-effects.
Physical movement therapy such as walking, swimming, tai chi, yoga, or cycling has also proven to be effective for increasing mobility and decreasing pain. Whatever your exercise of choice is, make sure that it is low-impact and doesn’t cause you additional pain. It’s also important to note that maintaining a healthy weight can greatly reduce symptoms.
Other holistic, non-surgical osteoarthritis treatment methods include:
- Heat/cold therapy for relieving swelling, easing pain, and reducing spasms
- Capsaicin (chili pepper extract) applied to the skin over the affected joint(s)
- Braces, shoe inserts, or canes designed to take the pressure off the affected joints
- Acupuncture therapy, which can reduce pain and swelling
- Avocado and soybean oils, which act as an anti-inflammatory
- Omega-3 fatty acids, which may help relieve pain and improve joint function
In the event that over-the-counter meds, physical therapy, and holistic methods don’t work, your doctor may recommend surgery or other medical procedures. This could include cortisone/lubrication injections, bone realignment, or joint replacement.
As with osteoarthritis, there is no cure for rheumatoid arthritis. Treatments will focus on relieving pain and other symptoms of discomfort and inflammation. Medications include over-the-counter NSAIDs, prescription NSAIDs, steroids (prednisone), disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs), and biologic response modifiers that target the parts of the immune system that are triggering the inflammation. The majority of drugs taken for rheumatoid arthritis must be prescribed by a doctor.
Similar to osteoarthritis, physical therapy and occupational therapy methods have proven to be beneficial in reducing symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.
In the event that medications and other therapies fail to slow down joint damage, your physician may recommend a surgery or other medical procedure. Examples include synovectomy, tendon repair, joint fusion, and total joint replacement.
Gout usually comes in waves, with periods of intense pain and discomfort followed by periods of dormancy. The treatments prescribed to those suffering with gout are intended to prevent and/or minimize the intensity of the attacks.
Medications for treating gout include over-the-counter NSAIDs (Advil), prescribed NSAIDs (Indocin), colchicine, and corticosteroids (prednisone). Other medications are aimed at preventing gout attacks by altering or otherwise improving uric acid production; these will be prescribed by a physician.
There are alternative means that have shown some positive effects in treating gout, however, more research is needed. These include drinking coffee, increasing vitamin C intake, and eating cherries to lower uric acid levels.
What Are the Next Steps For Treating My Arthritis?
If you believe that you are suffering from arthritis, the first thing you should do is make an appointment with a physician or orthopedic doctor in order to get properly diagnosed. Search the phrase “orthopedic doctor near me” in order to find the one closest to you.
During your appointment, your doctor will run the necessary tests to determine which – if any – variety of arthritis you have and start you on a treatment plan. As previously stated, treating arthritis is going to be different from patient to patient. The recommended method of treatment may be conventional, holistic, or a combination of the two.