Arthritis is a very common joint condition that is not well understood. “Arthritis” is not a single disease, but a common way to refer to joint pain or joint disease. There are more than 100 different types of arthritis and related conditions.
Common arthritis joint symptoms include swelling, pain, stiffness and decreased range of motion. Symptoms may come and go, and they can be mild to severe. Arthritis symptoms may stay the same for years or may progress and get worse with age. Severe arthritis can result in chronic pain, inability to conduct daily activities, and make it difficult to walk or climb stairs. Arthritis can even cause permanent joint changes.
Listed below are arthritis classifications:
Osteoarthritis is the most common. When the cartilage wears away, bone rubs against bone causing pain, swelling and stiffness. Over time, joints can lose strength and pain may become chronic. Risk factors include excess weight, family history, age and a previous injury.
When the joint symptoms of osteoarthritis are mild or moderate, they can often be managed by:
• balancing activity with rest
• using hot and cold therapy
• regular physical activity
• keeping a healthy weight
• strengthening the muscles around the joint
• using a cane or other assistive devices
• taking over-the-counter (OTC) pain medicine or anti-inflammatory medicines
• avoiding excessive repetitive movements
To prevent osteoarthritis, stay active, maintain a healthy weight, and avoid injury and repetitive movements.
Sometimes our immune system can go awry and mistakenly attack the joints causing uncontrolled inflammation that potentially results in joint damage and may even damage internal organs, eyes and other parts of the body. Rheumatoid arthritis and psoriatic arthritis are examples of inflammatory arthritis. Researchers believe that a combination of genetics and environmental factors can trigger these autoimmunity issues. Smoking is an example of an environmental risk factor that can trigger rheumatoid arthritis in people with certain genes.
With inflammatory types of arthritis, early diagnosis and aggressive treatment is critical. Remission is the goal and may be achieved through the use of medications known as disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs). The goal of treatment is to reduce pain, improve function and prevent further joint damage.
A bacterium, virus or fungus can enter the joint and trigger inflammation. Examples of organisms that can infect joints are salmonella and shigella (food poisoning or contamination), chlamydia and gonorrhea (sexually transmitted diseases) and hepatitis C (a blood-to-blood infection). In many cases, treatment with antibiotics may clear the joint infection.
Uric acid is formed as the body breaks down purines, a substance found in our cells and in many foods. Some people naturally produce more uric acid than is needed or the body can’t get rid of the uric acid quickly enough. In some people, the uric acid builds up and forms needle-like crystals in the joint, resulting in sudden spikes of extreme joint pain, or a gout attack. Gout can come and go in episodes or, if uric acid levels aren’t reduced, it can become chronic, causing ongoing pain and disability.
Many things can be done to preserve joint function, mobility and quality of life. Learning about arthritis and treatment options, making time for physical activity, and maintaining a healthy weight are essential. Arthritis is often a misunderstood disease. The Arthritis Foundation is the only nonprofit organization dedicated to serving all people with arthritis (arthritis.org). For information about physical activity, consult with your physician, then make an appointment with a personal trainer to develop a fitness program designed to address your individual needs.
By: Janet Hunt
Janet Hunt is a Certified Personal Trainer and can be reached at 256-614-3530 to schedule an appointment.