Arthritis: Take Hold of This Disruptive Condition

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March 8th, 2023

Arthritis: Take Hold of This Disruptive Condition

New Hampshire Women Magazine asks arthritis expert, Dr. Daniel Tseytlin, DO, at St. Joseph Hospital Rheumatology, about the causes and treatment of this disruptive condition.

Arthritis is a common condition that affects millions of people worldwide. Women, in particular, are at an increased risk for developing the condition as they age. A diagnosis of arthritis can be scary, especially if you’re not sure what it is or how to treat it. In this article, we’ll discuss the different types of arthritis, at-home remedies for pain relief, and when you should seek professional medical care.

What is Arthritis?

Arthritis is a term used to describe inflammation and pain in the joints. The most common types of arthritis are osteoarthritis (OA) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA). OA occurs when the protective cartilage between bones breaks down over time with use or age while RA is an autoimmune disorder where your body attacks itself instead of protecting itself from outside threats. Both conditions cause painful joints and can limit movement in those areas.

What’s the Difference Between Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis?

The main difference between arthritis and rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is that RA is an autoimmune disorder where the body mistakenly attacks its own tissue whereas osteoarthritis (OA) refers to degenerative changes of cartilage surrounding them over time with use or age. Both RA and OA can affect multiple joints at a time. Both conditions cause similar symptoms such as pain, stiffness upon waking up in the morning (lasting longer than 30 minutes) and difficulty completing everyday tasks like getting dressed. The presence of redness and swelling of affected joint(s) is more suggestive of rheumatoid arthritis.

Dr. Tseytlin explains, “Osteoarthritis is a degenerative arthritis with physiology that results in the loss of cartilage between bone. The rate of deterioration can be influenced by genetic factors and physical labor for example. Because nerve endings remain and are in closer proximity pain can result. Rheumatoid arthritis is a systemic, autoimmune, inflammatory condition where the body’s immune system attacks joints and sometimes systemic organ systems. Rheumatoid arthritis is managed long term with medicines that target the underlying autoimmune inflammatory cause. Currently, osteoarthritis is managed with supportive pain relieving modalities.”

Are All Forms of Arthritis Progressive?

While some forms of arthritis (such as rheumatoid) will continue to worsen over time if left untreated, other forms (such as osteoarthritis) can be managed with lifestyle changes such as exercise/stretching routines combined with medications/injections prescribed by a doctor depending on severity of symptoms experienced by patient respectively.

“Some arthritic conditions such as gouty arthritis can be readily intervened upon and managed to prevent progressive damage,” says Dr. Tseytlin. “Similarly inflammatory autoimmune arthritic conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and psoriatic arthritis (when treated appropriately) can help prevent progressive deformity and loss of function and impairment in activities of daily living. Osteoarthritis is a condition that is generally progressive but the rate of progression will vary. Some will develop changes early in life that will result in significant deformity by middle or old age.”

When Should I See a Doctor?

If your symptoms don’t improve after trying at-home remedies for a few weeks or if they become become worse over time, it’s important to see a doctor right away so they can provide more effective treatment options specific to your needs. Some warning signs that indicate it’s time to visit a doctor include persistent pain even with rest or medication; stiffness lasting longer than 30 minutes; difficulty completing everyday tasks like getting dressed; redness or swelling near the affected joint; and fever accompanied by joint pain.

“The presence of pain despite over-the-counter remedies is a reason to seek medical attention,” said Dr. Tseytlin. “(And) if there is presence of a swollen joint, whether it be due to trauma or spontaneous onset, this is another reason to seek an evaluation to make sure a diagnosis can be made and appropriate management recommendations can be provided.”

At Home Remedies for Pain Relief

If you’re experiencing mild symptoms, there are several at-home remedies you can try to ease your pain such as rest, stretching exercises, hot/cold therapy, and over-the-counter medications like ibuprofen or acetaminophen. Additionally, some people find relief from alternative treatments such as acupuncture or massage therapy. These treatments work best when combined with regular physical activity tailored to your specific needs.

“Exercise is important continue to help facilitate strength both from muscle conditioning and flexibility to provide support,” says Dr. Tseytlin. “Though there is not one particular type of exercise that is broadly recommended, I encourage patients to be as active as they are to the point their body allows.”

Dr. Tseytlin says those with significant limitations, stationary bike riding, Tai Chi, and physical therapy are exercises that have “lesser impact on the joints, yet still provide some degree of mobility.”

Can Arthritis Be Cured?

“There are many kinds of arthritis such as the result of bacterial infection, crystalline including goat or pseudogout, autoimmune inflammatory such as rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, spondyloarthropathy, reactive arthritis, and degenerative such as osteoarthritis,” says Dr. Tseytlin. “Depending upon the arthritis diagnosed will determine prognosis as well as management strategies. Some conditions such as gout can be managed in a way to prevent further flare ups and in essence are curative. In conditions such as severe osteoarthritis of the hip or knee surgical intervention by an orthopedic surgeon for definitive management may be an option.”

Depending on the type of arthritis you have and severity of your symptoms, treatment may include lifestyle changes like exercising more frequently; physical therapy, medications like nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), corticosteroids, biologic medications; injections into affected joints, surgery like joint replacement, and complimentary therapies such as yoga or relaxation techniques.

It Doesn’t Have to Control Your Life!

Understanding arthritis and how to manage it plays a vital role in living a happy and fulfilling life. While there will always be difficulties that come with the condition, such as joint pain, there are treatments available to help minimize symptoms and make daily activities more manageable. It’s important to remember that by having proper engagement with healthcare providers, both traditional and alternative therapies, as well as maintaining an active lifestyle while keeping your joints healthy, you can live well with arthritis. As long as you have knowledge of the facts about the disease itself and its treatments, know when to seek or rely on professional help when needed, and adhere to necessary lifestyle changes, you’ll have greater control over your wellbeing for years to come.