Chances are, you know someone who has arthritis. Actually, if you’re on this page, then there’s a good chance that you have either been diagnosed with arthritis or have a strong suspicion that that’s what is causing your chronic pain and joint stiffness.
The truth of the matter is that arthritis affects about 25% of adults in the United States and is the leading cause of work disability. It is often caused by natural degeneration of the joints in your body, but sometimes arthritis can be brought on by other illnesses or conditions.
In this page, we’re going to walk you through everything you need to know about arthritis: the types of arthritis, symptoms, causes and possible treatment options. One good thing to take away from this is that after reading, you’ll be able to have a solid game plan on how to tackle your arthritis pain and get back to your normal quality of life.
Types of Arthritis Pain
The most common type of arthritis is osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis is caused by the natural breakdown of cartilage in the joints as the body ages.
Each joint is lined with protective cartilage that allows the bones of the joint to pivot and move freely without friction. Over time — due to repetitive movement and also dehydration that happens naturally with age — the cartilage begins to wear down. This creates friction within the joint during movement. Continued friction leads to inflammation, which leads to pain and stiffness in the joints. Does this sound familiar?
Millions of people are affected by osteoarthritis, but it’s not the only form of arthritis out there. Other types of arthritis include:
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Thumb arthritis
- Ankylosing spondylitis
- Juvenile idiopathic arthritis
Causes of Arthritis Pain
While osteoarthritis is caused by the natural wear and tear of cartilage in the joints, other types of arthritis are often associated with autoimmune conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and other conditions that cause excess inflammation in the body.
For people with osteoarthritis, there are several risk factors that can contribute to you developing this condition, such as:
- Age — Because this condition develops with the natural degeneration of the cartilage in the joints, age plays a big role in when osteoarthritis appears. The older you are, the higher the risk of developing arthritis pain.
- Sex — Women are at a higher risk of developing osteoarthritis than men. Studies are inconclusive about why this is the case, but researchers are trying to pinpoint what is causing this consistently skewed data.
- Excess weight — Carrying extra weight can put unnecessary strain on joints like the knees, hips and ankles, causing the cartilage to break down even faster than normal.
- Repetitive motion — Jobs or sports that require repetitive movements may contribute to the cartilage in your joints wearing down at a faster rate. These types of movements can include typing, lifting heavy objects and bending over consistently.
- Genetics — Similar to the increased risk of women developing arthritis pain compared to men, some people have certain genetics that make them more prone to arthritis later in life.
Fortunately, whatever has caused you to develop arthritis pain, there are treatments available to help you get back to the hobbies you enjoy without being held back by pain and stiffness in your joints. Besides at-home remedies, physical therapy is often the best solution for arthritis pain. To see a physical therapist, you no longer need to seek a doctor’s referral first; you have direct access to schedule an appointment with your nearest PT clinic.
Treatments for Arthritis Pain
If you are experiencing ongoing pain, stiffness and inflammation in your joints, there are several treatment options available.
For pain that is very mild and sporadic (not consistent), these at-home treatments may help reduce your pain:
- Over-the-counter medicine — Ibuprofen and other OTC medications are shown to help temporarily relieve inflammation and pain in the joints.
- Hot therapy — Applying a heating pad to your painful joints can help temporarily relieve arthritis pain. Be careful not to leave a heating pad on for longer than 20 minutes per session to avoid burning yourself.
- Massages — Massages may help improve joint stiffness. You can massage your hands or go see a massage therapist and tell them where your arthritis pain occurs.
- Anti-inflammatory diet — Several foods such as ginger and turmeric can help reduce overall arthritis in the body. Incorporating a great anti-inflammatory diet into your daily routine can help reduce your arthritis pain.
- Weight loss — Because excessive weight adds pressure to your joints, losing that weight can help relieve some of your arthritis pain (when coupled with other treatments). This is a more long-term solution and is highly encouraged for people who suffer from ongoing arthritis pain.
If your arthritis pain is still getting in the way of your daily activities despite trying these at-home therapies, then you should schedule an appointment with a local physical therapist. Physical therapy has been shown to help reduce the symptoms of arthritis, so you can get back to the lifestyle you enjoy.
Common physical therapy treatments for arthritis include:
- Therapeutic stretches and exercises — These can help strengthen the muscles around the joint, thereby reducing the amount of weight and compression of the joint. This will help relieve some of the inflammation in the area.
- Manual therapy — Manual therapy is used to promote blood flow to the joints and help rejuvenate some of the damaged cartilage in the joint.
- Joint mobilization — This type of physical therapy for arthritis pain is meant to improve range of motion and help counteract the stiffness in the joints caused by arthritis.
Your physical therapist will work with you to create a customized treatment plan tailored to your symptoms, diagnosis and lifestyle goals.
If you’re ready to find relief from your ongoing arthritis pain, our team at Lattimore Physical Therapy is here to help. Contact our office or visit our locations page to find a clinic near you.