If you have a throbbing, aching, dull, grinding or hot pain in your joints, you could very well be experiencing arthritis. Ouch! Approximately 24% of all adults in the United States have arthritis, with experts predicting that this number will get significantly higher as the nation ages. In fact, studies found that an estimated 78 million Americans will be diagnosed with arthritis by 2040, which is a major jump from the 54.5 million Americans affected today. Needless to say, arthritis is a serious problem that causes inflammation and swelling in one or more of your joints, but it’s also quite painful for your bank account as well. Research has confirmed that arthritis is a leading cause of work disability and is responsible for lost earnings of $303.5 billion! As for the average cost of treatment, it ranges between $1500 to $3000 each year just for the medication – a hefty price to pay when you’re already missing work. Fortunately, there are many alternative forms of treatment that don’t break the bank or require you to subject yourself to potential side effects like many conventional medicines do. In this article, we cover everything there is to know about arthritis and the different forms of treatment that can make a drastic improvement in the way you feel.
What is Arthritis?
I know you’re excited about learning the different ways you can start treating arthritis quickly and effectively but first, you must understand what arthritis is and how it’s affecting your body. This will allow you to choose the best form of treatment for you and your condition specifically moving forward.
Arthritis is a term used for inflammation and swelling in the joints, tissues and/or connective tissues around the joints. There are over 100 conditions that fall within the ‘arthritis’ category, with some of the most common forms of arthritis being gout, osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
Arthritis can affect one joint or multiple joints at a time, and can vary in severity depending on the type and location of the issue.
In some cases, people can recover from arthritis simply by making changes to their diet, stress levels and physical activity, whereas others may need proper treatment to avoid worsening symptoms or complications.
Common Types of Arthritis
As mentioned, there are over 100 types of arthritis with some being far more common than others. To help you determine what type of arthritis you may be experiencing, the five most common types of arthritis are:
- Rheumatoid Arthritis
- Psoriatic Arthritis
Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis and can be summed up as a form of arthritis that occurs from the wear and tear of your joints. It typically is brought on with age but can also be the result of an injury to the joints or obesity, which puts extra stress on your joints.
Gout is a form of arthritis that is caused by a buildup of uric acid crystals in the joint. It commonly occurs in the big toe and men are more likely to experience this type of arthritis than women.
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease where the immune system attacks part of the body, particularly the joints. This leads to inflammation and ultimately, severe damage to the joints if left untreated.
Psoriatic arthritis is a condition where there is inflammation of the skin and joints. It can cause patchy, raised areas of the skin, typically around the tips of the elbows and knees, as well as the scalp, navel and private areas.
Lupus is an autoimmune disease that makes your immune system attack the joints, causing inflammation and pain throughout the body.
What Causes Arthritis?
Now that you know a little bit more about the different types of arthritis, you likely already know that the causes of arthritis highly depend on the type you’re experiencing. After all, some forms of arthritis are autoimmune diseases whereas others are the result of overused joints. So, it’s important to receive a proper diagnosis from a healthcare professional to determine the type of arthritis you’re experiencing and then, you should be able to narrow in on the specific causes.
However, from a general standpoint, arthritis can be caused by:
- Normal wear and tear
- Genes/Family history
- Autoimmune disorders
- Muscle weakness
There are also some cases of arthritis where the exact cause is entirely unknown.
What Are The Symptoms of Arthritis?
Just like the prior, the symptoms of arthritis vary depending on the type. However, the most common symptoms that tend to be across the board are joint pain, swelling and stiffness. These symptoms often feel worse in the morning or when you’ve been resting.
Furthermore, symptoms of osteoarthritis specifically may also include:
- Limited range of motion
- Clicking or popping when bending
- Muscle weakness
- Scraping feelings in the knees
- Buckling at the joint
- Bony growths in the fingers
Symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis may also include:
- More than one affected joint
- Onset in smaller joints, such as your feet and hands
- Joints affected on both sides of the body
- Inflammation around the eyes and mouth
- Low red blood cell count
- Inflammation of the heart muscle and vessels
Depending on the type of arthritis you’re dealing with, symptoms left untreated can worsen and drastically affect your daily life, causing further symptoms and complications, such as:
- Reduced mobility
- Weight gain
- Increased risk of metabolic disorders
- Risk of falls
- Decreased ability to work
- Effects on mental health
Treatment Options for Arthritis
Arthritis may be incurable but there are many treatment options available that can reduce the discomfort and pain you’re experiencing and deter additional damage to your joints. These range from conventional medicine to alternative health and beyond. A combination of treatments may also be used. Here’s a quick look at the most common treatment options:
- Physical therapy
- Occupational Therapy
- Regular exercise
- Weight loss
- Hot and cold compressions
- Mobility assistance devices
Lifestyle Changes That Can Improve Arthritis
There are also a variety of lifestyle changes you can make to significantly improve your condition and start eradicating your symptoms at the source. These include getting regular exercise, taking nutritional supplements, making healthy diet changes and weight loss. Here are some additional tips that can help you improve your arthritis:
- Supplements: fish oil and turmeric supplements can help reduce inflammation
- Weight loss: maintaining a healthy weight can reduce your risk of developing certain types of arthritis or reduce any symptoms you’re already experiencing
- Diet: Eating a nutrient-dense diet can aid weight loss and provide your body with antioxidants that can reduce inflammation naturally
- Aim for foods such as fresh fruits, vegetables, herbs, fish and nutsAvoid fried foods, processed foods, dairy products, high intake of meat, sugars
- Exercise: getting regular exercise into your day can help keep joints flexibility
- Swimming is an excellent form of exercise that doesn’t put unnecessary or extra pressure on your joints
- Listen to your body and rest when needed
- Avoid overexerting yourself
- Try different stretches and at-home exercises
- Hot/Cold therapy: use hot and cold compresses to reduce inflammation and heal the area causing your pain and discomfort
- Improve sleep: Improving your sleep can make it easier to cope with your symptoms
- Aim to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day
- Remove distractions from your bedroom
- Improve the comfort of your space with new pillows, mattress, linens, etc.
- Spray lavender on your pillows and linens
- Enjoy chamomile tea in the evening
- Stay off technology before you go to bed
- Do a relaxing activity
- Support painful joints: use devices that help ease your discomfort, such as splints, braces, a walker, a cane, etc.
- Don’t forget about the other items that can also make everyday life easier, such as an automatic can opener, shower chairs, etc.
- Improve posture: Whether you’re using a physical therapist, an at-home device or yoga poses, improving your posture can reduce your pain and discomfort
- Quit bad habits: Smoking can increase stress on the tissues causing your arthritis pain, so put together a plan to quit
- Try acupuncture for effective, natural pain relief
- Treat yourself to regular massages
- Check out guides such as The Arthritis Step by Step Strategy.
Although arthritis doesn’t have a cure, there are a variety of treatments available that can drastically reduce your symptoms and get you back to feeling (and moving) better. Whether it’s taking prescription medication, over-the-counter meds, or implementing some healthy lifestyle and diet changes, you can manage your arthritis and get back to living the life you want. If you notice your symptoms worsening, please contact your healthcare provider to receive professional care as needed, and to discuss the best treatment plan for you.