Defining arthritis & finding ways to cope with the pain

December 7, 2019

Arthritis is a very common but not well understood disease. The term “arthritis” is not a single disease, but an informal way of referring to joint pain or joint disease, according to the Arthritis Foundation. There are more than 100 different types of arthritis and related conditions. It is most common in women and occurs more frequently as people get older.

The most common arthritis symptoms include swelling, pain, stiffness, and decreased range of motion. Severe arthritis can result in chronic pain and the inability to complete daily activities. 

woman with arthritis experiences chronic pain

The most common type of arthritis

Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis. When cartilage (the slick, cushioning surface on the ends of bones) wears away, bone rubs against bone. This rubbing of bones causes pain, swelling, and stiffness. Over time, joints can lose strength, and pain may become chronic. Risk factors include excess weight, family history, age, and previous injury.

When the symptoms of osteoarthritis are mild or moderate, patients can manage their symptoms with treatments, such as: 

  • Balancing activity and rest
  • Using hot and cold therapies
  • Regular physical activity
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Strengthening the muscles around the joint
  • Using assistive devices, if necessary
  • Taking over-the-counter pain relievers or anti-inflammatory medicines, if appropriate and approved by your doctor
  • Avoiding excessive repetitive movements

Diagnosing & treating arthritis

Arthritis diagnosis often begins with a primary care physician. The doctor will perform a physical exam and may do blood tests and imaging scans to help determine the type of arthritis you have. An arthritis specialist, or rheumatologist, may be involved if the diagnosis is uncertain or if the arthritis may be inflammatory. Orthopedic surgeons do joint surgery, including joint replacements. 

Many people who have some form of arthritis or a related disease may be living with chronic pain, and this is when the doctors at Southside Pain Specialists come in. We consider pain to be chronic when it lasts three to six months or longer. Unfortunately, arthritis pain can last a lifetime. It may be constant, or it may come and go. The good news is that there are ways to effectively manage chronic arthritis pain.

The importance of managing weight & staying active

Excess weight and obesity can cause more pressure on weight-bearing joints and increase pain. Adipose tissue (fat) also sends out chemical signals that increase inflammation. Of course, being overweight is also bad for your overall health since it increases your chances of heart disease, diabetes, and even some cancers. Maintaining a healthy weight will be beneficial in many important ways, including lessening the effects of arthritis.  

What you eat is also essential for optimal health. Make sure you eat plenty of vegetables, fresh fruit, whole grains, and lean protein, such as beans, poultry, and fish. Stay away from processed foods, red meat, and sugary drinks. There is some evidence that anti-inflammatory diets can be beneficial as well.

In addition to helping control weight, activities like walking, water aerobics, or yoga can help reduce joint pain and improve flexibility, balance, and strength. Cardiovascular exercise, like biking on a stationary bike, also helps keep your heart in shape. Remember to always talk to your doctor or physical therapist to find out what option may be best for you. When you stay active, you typically feel more energetic. This exercise can help you sleep better, which, in turn, can alleviate arthritis pain as well.

Many people with chronic arthritis pain find that a positive attitude can significantly boost their ability to cope with pain. It’s important not to give into the pain. Focus on continuing to do the things you enjoy, even if those things have to be modified. Coming up with a specialized, multi-disciplinary plan is our job at Southside Pain, whether you are dealing with arthritis pain or any other issues.

Southside Pain Specialists is your one-stop shop for pain management

With a multitude of pain relief options tailored to your specific needs, Southside Pain Specialists follow the standards of the American Society of Interventional Pain Physicians, The American Board of Pain Medicine and the International Spinal Injection Society and work hard to provide patients comprehensive, caring pain relief when they need it most. Check out our website or contact us today at 205.332.3155 to learn more.