Contrary to popular belief, joint pain is not a normal part of aging. If your joints hurt, arthritis may be the culprit. Arthritis is the inflammation of a joint, and it can affect any structure inside a joint including the lining, bones, cartilage and supporting tissues. Someone with arthritis may experience pain, stiffness, swelling, joint tenderness, limited mobility or even deformity. Also, performing daily tasks will likely be challenging. Arthritis can be caused by wear and tear, an infection, an injury or an autoimmune condition.
You may be surprised to learn that there are 106 different types of arthritis; however, the two most common are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Affecting 50 percent of people over the age of 50, osteoarthritis is often called the “wear and tear” arthritis and can lead to breakdown of cartilage that covers the bones. When bone rubs against bone, it can be very painful. Rheumatoid arthritis affects 1.3 million Americans and is an immune-mediated disease. It destroys cartilage while weakening tendons. This leaves a person to suffer from pain, fatigue, fever and even anemia.
An evaluation by your physician is important to determining the type of arthritis you are suffering from and the treatment that will best help alleviate your symptoms. The goal of any arthritis treatment is to improve quality of life and help decrease pain and suffering.
An evaluation can include a physical exam, questions about your health history, lab tests, an X-ray(s), an MRI/CT scan and a joint fluid evaluation. From there, your physician will discuss various treatments with you. You might be prescribed medication or advised to use over-the-counter pain relievers such as Tylenol, Aleve or Ibuprofen/Motrin. Vitamins/supplements and some herbal/natural products may also help. Other medications include dietary supplements and joint injections (steroid or synthetic joint fluid). Additionally, other non-medication treatments include:
• Exercise programs
• Physical therapy
• Weight loss
• Assistive devices – i.e. cane, walker, etc.
• Hot/cold treatments
• Orthoses – i.e. shoe inserts or braces
If your arthritis is severe enough, surgery could be required. Procedures such as arthroscopy and joint irrigation, realignment, fusion, joint replacement and cartilage grafting can help correct the condition.
Treatment is not only essential to helping alleviate your arthritis symptoms, it’s important to your overall health and well-being. When you can be more mobile, you can perform more physical activity which benefits your overall health and well-being. If you feel you could be suffering from arthritis, contact WakeMed Physician Practices – Morrisville Primary Care for an evaluation: (919) 235-6405.
Dr. Swapna Chenna is a physician with WakeMed Physician Practices – Morrisville Primary Care.