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

Exercising arthritis pain away

Studies indicate that physical therapy is often just as effective as surgery in reducing pain and increasing function for people with arthritis in their knees or backs. It’s wise to seek out physical therapy whenever joint pain interferes with your normal activities for more than a few days. (Locked) More »

Are you at risk for gout?

Gout is a type of inflammatory arthritis. It’s caused by a buildup of uric acid, a waste product from the breakdown of natural chemicals in the body. Symptoms—such as excruciating pain, warmth, redness, and swelling—often appear suddenly, especially in the toes (mainly the big toe), feet, and ankles. Medications can decrease severity and pain and help to lower uric acid levels. Other ways to treat gout include losing weight, staying hydrated, treating underlying conditions that may be linked to gout, and avoiding foods that increase uric acid. (Locked) More »

Could that joint pain be rheumatoid arthritis?

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a progressive disease that can affect the whole body, including the heart, lungs, and eyes. It may cause damage to the joints, tendons, and bones. Classic symptoms include persistent swelling in multiple joints, pain that is worse in the morning and better with movement, and persistent fatigue. It’s important to begin treating RA as soon as possible, because medication may help slow the disease process. Other therapies include exercise, splinting, weight loss, and smoking cessation. (Locked) More »

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 »