What is arthritis?
Arthritis refers to the inflammation of the joints. It presents as pain and swelling of the joints in the body. Arthritis can develop in any joint such as joints of the fingers, hips, and knees.
The cartilage (a rubbery tissue covering the ends of the bones) breaks down over time, leaving the bones without anything to cushion them. This causes the bones in the joints to rub against each other resulting in painful swelling.
Arthritis is a very painful condition without a permanent cure. However, there are many treatment options available to curb the complications of arthritis.
What is the best treatment for arthritis?
Painkillers, along with physical therapy, is usually considered the best treatment for arthritis in the early stages. However, if the patient is unable to continue their daily activities, then the surgical option is recommended at the particular painful joint to give relief to the patient.
- Physical therapy: Physical therapists can work with patients on exercises to reduce pain and improve their range of motion. Patients with arthritis have a hard time performing physical activities, but exercise can relieve arthritis pain and lessen joint damage.
- Exercise can also help to lose weight that will put less stress on the joints. Exercises such as stretching, muscle strengthening and aerobics can help patients to stay fit. It also increases flexibility, range of motion and lubrication in their joints.
- Exercises involving lifting weights can build muscle strength, which can help a person to manage daily activities.
- Exercises also strengthen the heart and lungs and can reduce fatigue besides increasing the patient’s stamina.
- Typical aerobic exercises such as walking, running, riding a bicycle, swimming, or using a treadmill can cut down calories. Walking and water aerobics are considered the best exercises for arthritis patients.
- Medications: Usually, a doctor may prescribe medications such as aspirin, oxycodone, hydrocodone, ibuprofen and naproxen that may relieve pain and swelling. Another option is a corticosteroid injection at the site of joint pain, which is only given if the pain is very severe.
- Natural remedies: Natural remedies are usually considered by the patient because they believe them to have limited side effects. Some herbs and supplements (capsaicin, flaxseed, ginger, ginkgo, and turmeric) may relieve arthritis.
- However, the most popular ones for pain relief are chondroitin sulfate and glucosamine. Both are made of compounds found in the cartilage. They may help the body regenerate the cartilage on the joints. Studies have shown that they may provide modest pain relief and could be tried if the patient is unable to tolerate other pain medications.
- The American College of Rheumatology does not currently recommend the use of chondroitin sulfate and glucosamine.
- Other natural remedies include acupuncture, massage, heating pads and ice packs.
- Reducing stress by maintaining a positive outlook may also help to manage the disease.
- Surgery: If the patient has tried several remedies and got no relief or only a temporary relief, the doctor may suggest surgical options which include the following:
- Joint repair: In this procedure, the joint surfaces are smoothed or realigned to reduce pain and improve function. These types of procedures can often be performed arthroscopically through small incisions over the joint.
- Joint replacement: This procedure removes the damaged joint and replaces it with an artificial one. The most commonly replaced joints are hips and knees.
- Joint fusion: This procedure is more often used for smaller joints, such as those in the wrist, ankle, and fingers. It removes the ends of the two bones in the joint and then locks those ends together until they heal into one rigid unit.
What is the outlook or prognosis of arthritis?
It is usually difficult to predict the course of arthritis, and the prognosis varies greatly on several factors. Arthritis can reduce a person’s life expectancy, although many people live with their symptoms beyond the ages of 80 or even 90 years.
Factors affecting arthritis prognosis include age, disease progression, and lifestyle factors, such as smoking and weight management. Because of advances in medications and other treatments, the prognosis for arthritis is better than ever before.
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