Arthritis

Arthritis can be distracting. Distressing. And disheartening. It can make you hesitant. It can frustrate — and even prevent — you from doing all the things you love to do. It is, quite literally, a pain. There are more than 100 different types of arthritis. The most common are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

The good news is that you can live — and live well — with arthritis. You can get relief from its pain and its consequences. One of the best and effective ways to combat arthritis pain is simple: exercise. Regular exercise not only helps maintain joint function, but also relieves stiffness and decreases pain and fatigue. Other ways to ease arthritis pain include medications, physical therapy, joint replacement surgery, and some alternative or complementary procedures.

Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis. It starts with the deterioration of cartilage, the flexible tissue lining joints. The space between bones gradually narrows and the bone surfaces change shape. Over time, this leads to joint damage and pain. The symptoms of osteoarthritis usually develop over many years. The first sign is often joint pain after strenuous activity or overusing a joint. Joints may be stiff in the morning, but loosen up after a few minutes of movement. Or the joint may be mildly tender, and movement may cause a crackling or grating sensation.

Osteoarthritis was long considered a natural consequence of aging, the result of gradual wearing down of cartilage. The cause of osteoarthritis is much more complex than simple wear and tear. External factors, such as injuries, can initiate chronic cartilage breakdown. Inactivity and excess weight can also trigger the problem or make it worse. Genetic factors can affect how quickly it gets worse.

There is currently no cure for osteoarthritis. But there are effective treatments that can greatly improve a person's quality of life by relieving pain, protecting joints, and increasing range of motion in the affected joint. Therapy usually involves a combination of nondrug treatments such as heat, ice, and exercise; medication for pain and inflammation; and the use of assistive devices such as canes or walkers. In some cases, more aggressive treatment with surgery or joint replacement may be needed.

Arthritis Articles

Give grip strength a hand

Weak grip strength can interfere with many aspects of an active lifestyle. It also may be a signal for other health issues like lack of mobility and risk of heart attack and stroke. Performing a series of hand-specific exercises can keep a person’s grip strong and supple. (Locked) More »

Ask the doctor: Braces for knee arthritis

Although the medical research is mixed, men with knee arthritis may benefit from wearing a knee sleeve or an unloader brace to help relieve pain and improve the ability to perform certain activities. (Locked) More »

Got a bum knee? Here is what to do

Osteoarthritis is the most common cause of chronic knee pain, but there are other possibilities, such as overuse, injury, and non-arthritis conditions. The first person to talk to is your primary care doctor, who can identify the most likely reason for the pain and other symptoms and recommend either further testing or a visit with a joint specialist, or rheumatologist.  (Locked) More »

Arthritis pain relief while taking warfarin

People who take warfarin should avoid taking over-the-counter painkillers such as ibuprofen and naproxen. Taking the two medications together can increase the risk of bleeding in the gastrointestinal tract and elsewhere in the body. (Locked) More »

Heat therapy for rheumatoid arthritis

Heat helps improve your pain tolerance and relaxes muscles, both of which can reduce the pain of rheumatoid arthritis. Heat treatment remains a standard part of the physical therapist's practice. But you don't need to visit a physical therapist to reap the benefits of heat therapy. Here are some techniques you can use at home. Warm bath or shower. A hot tub or a bathtub equipped with water jets can closely duplicate the warm-water massage of whirlpool baths used by professionals—for most people, the bathtub works nearly as well. Soaking for 15 to 20 minutes in a warm bath allows the weight-bearing muscles to relax. A warm shower can also help lessen the stiffness of rheumatoid arthritis. You can upgrade your shower with an adjustable shower-head massager that's inexpensive and easy to install. It should deliver a steady, fine spray or a pulsing stream, usually with a few options in between. More »

Acupuncture for rheumatoid arthritis

Acupuncture has been a staple of Chinese medicine for over 2,000 years. Acupuncturists insert hair-thin needles into the skin at points on the body. It is virtually painless when done by an experienced practitioner. Inserting the needles is thought to correct imbalances in the flow of energy in the body, called qi (pronounced "chee"). In Western scientific terms, the effect of acupuncture is to adjust the body's neurotransmitters, hormone levels, or immune system. There is not a lot of definitive research on acupuncture and rheumatoid arthritis although some data suggest it can be helpful. If you want to try acupuncture, be sure to choose a licensed practitioner. Most states require a license to practice acupuncture. The requirements, education, and training standards for licensure vary from state to state. If your state does not require a license, choose a practitioner who is licensed in another state or is certified by the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine. More »

Tai chi for osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is a degenerative disease of the joints that causes stiffness, pain, and mild inflammation in the affected joints. It develops when cartilage—the tissue that covers bones and acts as a cushion—deteriorates over time, eventually leading to joint damage. For the early stages of this condition, a variety of remedies may offer some relief when used in conjunction with or as an alternative to medication, including Tai Chi. Tai chi helps improve physical strength and mobility and promotes a sense of well-being. A study published in Arthritis & Rheumatism found that participants with knee osteoarthritis who practiced tai chi twice a week had less pain and better physical function compared with study participants enrolled in a wellness education and stretching program. The tai chi class lasted 12 weeks, but the improvements were sustained a year later. These participants also reported less depression and greater well-being. Among other things, tai chi provides benefit by improving muscle strength and coordination, which leads to better joint stability. In addition, the mind-body aspects and breath control promote mental calmness, which may help to break the cycle of arthritis pain. More »