What Exactly is Arthritis?
Arthritis is a very common condition that is nonetheless poorly understood. Over 50 million adults suffer from arthritis of some kind. While there are around 100 kinds of arthritis, the most common ones include rheumatoid and osteoarthritis. While rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disorder that can affect any joint in the body, osteoarthritis most commonly affects joints that are subject to pressure and strain.
What Is Osteoarthritis?
This type of arthritis is the most common. There is a cushion of cartilage between each of our bones. This substance provides cushioning and allows joints to move against one another more easily. Over time, the cartilage in a joint can wear away. The result is bone rubbing painfully against bone.
Osteoarthritis can occur in any joint in the body but is most common in the hands, knees, spine, and other joints that face constant use and pressure. It is more common in women than in men and shows up often in people who have active jobs that require long periods of standing.
The most common symptoms of arthritis include pain, swelling, joint stiffness and reduced range of motion. Symptoms can range from mild to debilitatingly severe. Some people may have symptoms that stay about the same; others may find that theirs come and go. Osteoarthritis tends to get worse over time as the level of joint degradation increases.
What Can Help With Arthritis Pain?
Osteoarthritis is a degenerative disease. There is no cure, and it tends to get worse over time. However, there are a number of things that arthritis sufferers can do to slow the progression of the disease and help relieve their symptoms. A few of the top ways to manage arthritis include:
- Engage in regular physical activity. People who are physically active typically experience less of the stiffness and pain associated with arthritis. Talk to your doctor about gentle exercises that can help.
- Maintain a healthy weight. When people are overweight, it puts additional stress on their joints, which can lead to increased arthritis pain.
- Strengthening the muscles around affected joints. This can help stabilize a joint and lead to reduced pain and pressure.
- Hot and cold therapy. In some cases, heat can help ease stiffness and increase mobility. In others, ice helps numb pain and relieve swelling.
- Avoiding excessive repetitive motions. Repetitive motion injuries are associated with higher rates of arthritis.
- Using over-the-counter pain medications or anti-inflammatories. NSAID medications like aspirin and Ibuprofen can reduce swelling and ease pain.
- Balancing physical activity with rest. Many people who have arthritis find it useful to take time off physical activity to rest joints and reduce pain.
Arthritis of the Spine
The spine is made up of 33 vertebrae, each of which is cushioned by cartilage. When this cartilage breaks down, pain and stiffness can result. Arthritis of the spine is one of the most common causes of lower back pain in adults over 50. People who have spinal arthritis may also experience complications; osteoarthritis may cause bone spurs that put pressure on nerve roots as they leave the spinal column. This, in turn, can cause pain, weakness, tingling and other symptoms.
While there is no cure, there are treatments available that can reduce the severity of spinal arthritis. These treatments can help you regain mobility, reduce pain and get back to your active lifestyle.
In this blog series, we’ll address many aspects of arthritis of the spine. We’ll discuss its causes, symptoms and the many treatments that can provide relief.