- Rheumatoid arthritis (RA): Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder in which your immune system attacks your own body tissue, including the lining between joints, causing it to swell up and wear out.
- Osteoarthritis (OA): In this condition, the cartilage between bones in your joints wears away, resulting in friction and stiffness.
In either case, the symptoms of arthritis are largely similar. Tissue that cushions the joints is reduced, causing bones to rub together. This causes pain, swelling, and damage to the joints.
Arthritis, whether it’s osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis, will manifest itself through the following symptoms:
- Reduced range of motion
- Deformities in the joints or limbs
Arthritis can lead to further complications as it impacts your ability to perform daily tasks. Arthritis in your hands, for example, can complicate eating and dental hygiene. Similarly, pain in weight-bearing joints like your hips or knees can prevent you from moving around as much, resulting in other health issues from lack of exercise
Pain Management and Treatment
Treatments for arthritis usually revolve around reducing discomfort. Treatments may vary depending the intensity of your pain, what triggers it, and how often it occurs. Pain management options include:
- Medication: Since arthritis frequently causes inflammation, and that inflammation results in pain and tissue damage, anti-inflammation medications can help control pain. These may be NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) such as ibuprofen and naproxen sodium, or analgesics like acetaminophen. Corticosteroids are injections used for extreme pain.
- Weight loss: Osteoarthritis usually occurs in weight-bearing joints, meaning excess weight often contributes to cartilage loss in those joints. Controlling your weight can reduce that stress and decrease pain.
- Hot or cold compresses: Heat opens blood vessels to allow more nutrients to areas of the body, allowing them to heal. Conversely, cold restricts blood flow, which can be useful in reducing inflammation and subsequent irritation and pain.
- Physical therapy: The purpose of therapy is to increase the range of movement in a joint and reduce pain and stiffness. This may be done through exercise and/or supportive devices.
- Alternative treatments: Acupuncture, acupressure, herbal remedies, and the inclusion of certain nutrients in your diet (like vitamin C and fish oil) can be used to help alleviate arthritis symptoms.