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

When are opioids safe to take?

Opioids can be safe for relieving severe, acute pain following surgery or injury. Tolerance, dependence, or addiction can arise when they are used for longer periods, for example, in treating pain from arthritis, fibromyalgia, or other chronic conditions. (Locked) More »

Gout

Gout is a painful condition caused by too much uric acid in the blood and tissues. When the level of uric acid is too high, this substance can form tiny crystals that lodge in joints, causing joint pain. Uric acid crystals can also lodge in the kidneys, causing kidney stones. A related condition called pseudogout occurs when crystals of calcium accumulate in joints. Gout occurs for three main reasons: Gout runs in some families. Among younger individuals, it affects men far more often than women. This gap shrinks among older men and women. More »

Relief for hand arthritis

Osteoarthritis in the hands is treated primarily with medication to control pain and inflammation. In addition, seeing a certified hand therapist can also be very helpful for minimizing pain and remaining functional. Hand therapists offer a range of services, including fitting braces and splints and advising on how to alter work habits to protect the affected joints. (Locked) More »

"Joint support" supplements for arthritis

Many “joint support” dietary supplements and herbal remedies are available, but there is no strong proof that they reduce pain and cartilage loss from osteoarthritis. The most widely used products contain glucosamine and/or chondroitin sulfate, but well-done clinical trials have failed to document a benefit. Joint support supplements may also contain dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO), methylsulfonylmethane (MSM), and S-adenosyl-L-methionine SAMe, as well as avocado-soybean unsaponifiables (ASU) or the herb Boswellia serrata. Such products are not evaluated as rigorously for safety, including reactions with other drugs, as are pharmaceuticals. In contrast, exercise can help reduce pain and maintain physical function. Fitness programs to build strength, flexibility, and aerobic capacity seem to work best. More »

Back Pain

Back pain can be a symptom of many different illnesses and conditions. The main cause of the pain can be a problem with the back itself or by a problem in another part of the body. In many cases, doctors can't find a cause for the pain. When a cause is found, common explanations include: Stress or injury involving the back muscles, including back sprain or strain; chronic overload of back muscles caused by obesity; and short term overload of back muscles caused by any unusual stress, such as lifting or pregnancy Disease or injury involving the back bones (vertebrae), including fracture from an accident or as a result of the bone-thinning disease osteoporosis Degenerative arthritis, a "wear and tear" process that may be related to age, injury and genetic predisposition. Disease or injury involving the spinal nerves, including nerve injury caused by a protruding disk (a fibrous cushion between vertebrae) or spinal stenosis (a narrowing of the spinal canal) (Locked) More »

Ask the doctor: Jogging and arthritis

Jogging for exercise has not been shown to cause or worsen knee arthritis. If running causes pain, it can help to on a softer surface and alternate running with other forms of lower-impact healthy aerobic exercise. (Locked) More »

Easy exercises for healthy knees

Even a small amount of exercise throughout the day will make a difference in knee health. Just a few repetitions here and there will give the knee joint more stability, which decreases stress at the joint from any weight-bearing activities. That can also help lessen the progression of arthritis in the joint. It’s helpful to fit in a few repetitions while watching TV or talking on the phone. Exercises that can help improve knee health include heel raises, standing side leg lifts, standing knee lifts, seated hamstring curls, and seated knee extensions.   (Locked) More »