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Arthritis and Treatments
Here's The Low Down
If you’re reading this article you either have arthritis or are close to someone who does. And you’ve probably read many others written in “doctorese” you don’t fully understand. So, here’s the low down.
The majority of arthritis pain can be classified as either acute or chronic. Acute pain lasts usually 2 weeks or less. Chronic pain can last weeks, or up to lifetime.
Arthritis simply means joint inflammation and can be any of over 100 different types of rheumatic diseases or conditions.
The two most common types are osteoarthritis (OA) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Symptoms can include pain, stiffness and swelling of joints.
Osteoarthritis results from wear and tear on the joints. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease. This simply means the body's own immune system is out of whack and assails cell lining inside the joints. If left untreated, arthritis can cause irreversible damage to joints, bones, organs and even the skin.
Severe Rheumatoid Arthritis
Anyone At Any Age
Arthritis can affect anyone at any age. The chances of getting it increases with age and statistics show about three out of five are under age 65. It’s also three times more common in women as in men.
In the early stages osteoarthritis is usually non-inflammatory and its progression is gradual affecting one or a few joints. The joints most often involved are the knees, hands, hips and spine. The odds of developing osteoarthritis increase with age.
So, now you know what it is, what treatment options do you have? They are many and varied but, we’ll stick with the most common pain management techniques.
Arthritis sufferers often experiment with various pain management techniques to find what works best for them. Remember, what works for one person may not work for another.
Medications can be used to reduce pain. Commonly prescribed are analgesics, which include pain relievers and narcotic painkillers. Other medications are nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Pain medications may temporarily relieve pain but do nothing to treat the cause. Some may have side effects so read the labels carefully.
In many cases a doctor may prescribe exercise because it helps maintain joint function and lessens pain. But always consult a physician before establishing any exercise plan. For arthritis patients some exercises may not be appropriate.
Another therapy is soaking affected joints in warm water which may decrease joint stiffness and aches. Use of a hot tub is recommended since being immersed in water takes body weight off of the joints.
Sometimes pain may be a signal joints need to rest from overuse. Resting will decrease inflammation up to a point. However, too much rest can result in weak muscles. In addition, massage can have a soothing effect by relaxing tension.
Failing any measurable results in the aforementioned treatments, a doctor might suggest transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation or (TENS). This is a method whereby low voltage electrical charges are used to block pain signals to the brain.
If relief still hasn’t been found the next step would be cortisone treatments. Corticosteroids are drugs similar to the hormone cortisol produced by the adrenal gland and can be injected or taken orally. They were designed to combat inflammation. However, extended use of corticosteroids can have dramatic side effects.
Last but not least is joint replacement…the last resort when all else has failed. Surgery has become more popular in recent years because of its great success. With this process a joint is removed and replaced with a prosthesis. If you are a candidate for surgery, learn all you can about what to expect.
Researchers are continually pursuing other avenues of arthritis treatments. It’s important to keep abreast of new developments if you suffer from arthritis.