Arthritis Affects Millions of Americans Every Day
Virtually everyone has either heard about or knows someone who has arthritis. After all, in the U.S., around 23% of adults (totaling over 54 million) have arthritis. This condition limits what activities 24 million adults can do. And one out of four people reports severe joint pain. Even children can suffer from this condition.
As you can see, many people live with this condition. For some, arthritis pain is mild, causing minimal discomfort. For others, this chronic pain is severe and debilitating, impacting their lives in multiple ways. While it is common, very few people understand what it is.
Arthritis is not a single disease, but it includes a variety of inflammatory joint conditions, totaling over 100 types of arthritis and other related conditions. Each kind is different, but they are almost always characterized by joint pain, swelling, and a decreased range of motion. Often, those with this condition are limited in what they can do.
This pain can be in the joints in the hands, knees, hips, wrists, and spine. Fortunately for many, arthritis is a treatable condition. There are countless methods pain management doctors can use to help you manage your chronic pain. If you do have arthritis, contact the pain management clinic at Texas Partners Healthcare Group to learn how we can help.
What Causes Arthritis?
Although arthritis refers to a wide range of disorders, it typically refers to inflammation of the joints, regardless of if it is the result of a disease, infection, genetic defect, or some other cause. It is essential to remember that not all forms are the result of joint inflammation, though. However, they often all have the same results.
Cartilage is a connective tissue in your joints that is both firm and flexible. It is responsible for protecting your joints by absorbing the impact and stress when you move and are active. However, as this tissue begins to wear away, it can cause some forms of arthritis. The two most common forms of arthritis are osteoarthritis (OA) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
In patients with osteoarthritis, regular wear and tear is often the cause. As you age, the cartilage in your joints naturally wears away. However, infections and injuries can speed up this process. Those with a family history of OA have a higher risk of developing this condition much earlier in life.
This form can affect any joint in the body, from your hips and knees to your shoulders and spine. As the cartilage wears away, the exposed bones rub together and, in many cases, create bone spurs that damage the surrounding muscles and tissues.
Rheumatoid arthritis can occur at a much younger age than osteoarthritis. RA is an autoimmune disorder, meaning it is the result of an issue with your immune system.
Your body releases white blood cells and other substances to protect your body from foreign organisms and infections, such as bacteria and viruses. However, in people with RA, the body’s immune system reacts when there is nothing for it to fight off. Usually, this unprompted reaction is the result of an autoimmune disorder.
Unfortunately, when the body’s immune system reacts like this, it causes damage to its own tissues, such as in the joints. The body responds as if healthy tissues are infected or have something wrong with them, so the body’s defense system attacks these tissues.
As we have mentioned throughout this article, arthritis is characterized by joint pain. That is the number one indicator, but there are several arthritis symptoms to keep an eye out for, such as:
- Skin that is warm to the touch
- Joint pain
- Joint stiffness
- Reduced range of motion
- Loss of joint function
- Symptoms worse in the morning
If inflammation is the cause of your chronic pain, you may also experience flu-like symptoms, such as:
- Loss of appetite
- Muscle stiffness/soreness
When it comes to inflammation, your body’s immune system acts irregularly. When it releases white blood cells, it increases the blood flow to the area of injury or infection, which results in redness, swelling, and warmth. This increase in white blood cell-rich blood flow to areas where there is no infection or danger is what causes damage and pain.
While arthritis can be debilitating in severe cases, there are plenty of things that pain management doctors can do to help you manage your chronic pain. During a visit, your doctor will perform a physical exam to determine the fluid levels around your joints, check for warm or red joints, and test your range of motion. They may recommend a visit with a specialist, such as a rheumatologist.
They may extract blood and joint fluids to analyze the inflammation levels to help them determine the form of arthritis you have. X-rays, MRIs, and CT scans also help determine arthritis causes while ruling out other causes, such as bone spurs.
Once diagnosed, a pain management doctor will choose from a host of arthritis treatments to help you find pain relief. Simple diet changes can help reduce symptoms, but for more advanced cases, further treatment may be necessary.
Examples of arthritis treatments include:
- Medication, such as analgesics and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
- Physical therapy
- Occupational therapy
- Regenerative medicine
- Injection therapy
- Surgery (in extreme cases)
Lifestyle changes, such as exercising more, eating better, and losing weight, can also improve your symptoms. Heat and cold therapy can provide pain relief, as well.
The type of treatment your pain management doctor will prescribe will rely on several factors. Your age, the type of disease, your overall health, medical history, and the severity of your symptoms will all play a role in creating a treatment plan.
Premier Pain Management Clinic
At Texas Partners Healthcare Group, we understand how frustrating living with arthritis can be. While many people have mild symptoms, others are left with pain that keeps them from doing everyday activities. From chronic pain and swelling to a reduced range of motion, arthritis impacts your body in many ways.
Fortunately, we offer a host of treatment options to help you find pain relief. It is our mission to help our patients find the right treatment plans for their particular situation and needs. If you live with arthritis, give Texas Partners Healthcare Group a call today and let us help you find relief.