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

Don't look to insoles to solve your knee pain

Wedge insoles are placed in the shoe to prop up the outside of your foot. They are meant to reduce the load on the inner knee joint. However, there is evidence the insoles do little to relieve knee arthritis pain. (Locked) More »

Pain relief: Taking NSAIDs safely

NSAIDs can help relieve pain and reduce inflammation from arthritis and other chronic aches and pains. However, you want to use the lowest dose for the shortest time. More »

Stay driving to stay independent

Aging brings physical changes that can jeopardize driving skills. Changes in eyesight may make it harder to see at night and read traffic signs. Hearing loss can mask outside noise such as sirens and horns. Chronic physical challenges such as arthritis pain may cause difficulty gripping a steering wheel, turning to look for traffic, or pressing the brakes. Problems with thinking skills can cause drivers to get lost or become confused in high traffic. It’s important to address potential driving issues as soon as possible to stay safe on the road. More »

New ways to beat osteoarthritis pain

Progress on new treatments for osteoarthritis has been slow, in part because the disease damages joints very gradually over time and is therefore hard to study. Researchers are starting to change the way they approach treatments, looking at the entire joint, instead of just the cartilage. Potential new therapies include the osteoporosis drug strontium ranelate and stem cell therapy. For now, pain relievers, joint injections of corticosteroids and hyaluronic acid, and joint resurfacing or replacement are the best treatment options. More »

Get rub-on relief for arthritis joint pain

Prescription strength topical pain relievers are nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) in the form creams, gels, and patches applied to the skin. Topical pain relievers work best for mild to moderate pain from muscles, joints, and other pain sources close to the skin surface. The active ingredients are in the same drug class as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) and naproxen (Aleve). NSAIDs can cause stomach upset, bleeding, or ulcers in people who are sensitive to anti-inflammatory medications. Topical pain relievers deliver a lower and more targeted dose of NSAIDs, which lowers the risk of side effects. Over-the-counter creams and rubs may also help for mild pain and soreness. More »