What Is Arthritis? — An In-Depth Guide

Story At A Glance

  • Arthritis affects approximately 1 in 4 adults in the United States.
  • Arthritis is a swelling or tenderness in the joints that causes pain and stiffness in the affected joints. We will discuss symptoms and risk factors of arthritis in this article.
  • Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis, but there are several others.
  • There are many treatment options to consider. These include medications, physical therapy, surgery, and diet. We will also address those options.

With 23% of adults in the United States suffering from arthritis, it is a little shocking that the majority of people don’t know exactly what it is or how it is treated. With a percentage as high as 23%, it is very likely that you or someone you know is in pain from arthritis (1). To support those we care about with arthritis, it is important to take the time to understand what they are going through.

What Is Arthritis?

Arthritis is a swelling or tenderness in the joints (2). This can affect one joint or multiple. Arthritis causes pain and stiffness in the affected joints, which can affect how the person is able to live their life. Most people find that the pain gets worse with age. It is also not uncommon for people to find that new areas develop arthritis over time as well.

There are several types of arthritis; how they cause pain varies, but most forms have certain attributes in common.

Middle-aged woman grasping her back in discomfort

Arthritis Symptoms

There are several different types of arthritis that we will be diving into further down. The symptoms can vary slightly, such as where the pain is located:

  • Pain
  • Stiffness
  • Swelling
  • Redness
  • Decrease in flexibility and/or range of motion

Risk Factors

Family History - Certain genes can make you more vulnerable to developing arthritis. If your parents or siblings have arthritis, you might be at risk.
Age - The older you are, the more likely it is that your body might manifest symptoms of arthritis.
Gender - Women are more at risk for developing rheumatoid arthritis, whereas men are more at risk for developing another type of arthritis called gout.
Previous Injury - People who have injured a joint in the past are more likely to have arthritis develop in that area.
Obesity - Carrying extra weight causes stress on joints and can lead to arthritis.

Types of Arthritis

Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis. With this type of arthritis, the cartilage between joints wears down over time (3). The purpose of the cartilage is to provide a cushion between the joints and prevent friction from occurring during movement. As the cartilage deteriorates, pain and swelling occur. Osteoarthritis can also include changes to the bone and deterioration of the connective tissues in the joint, which causes inflammation of the joint lining. Osteoarthritis can affect any joint, but it most commonly affects hands, knees, hips, and spine.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid Arthritis, frequently known as RA for short, is the most common type of autoimmune arthritis (4). Autoimmune arthritis occurs when the body begins attacking its own healthy joint tissues. This results in painful inflammation that can cause damage to the joints. RA usually starts with small joints, like the hands and feet, before spreading to bigger joints, like the wrists and hips. RA is considered the most disabling type of arthritis, but there are several treatments available.

graph comparing osteoarthritis to rheumatoid arthritis

Gout

Gout is another common form of arthritis (5). Unlike other forms of arthritis, gout is a sudden attack of pain, inflammation, and redness. Often, this pain is at the base of the big toe.

Other Types of Arthritis

  • Ankylosing spondylitis
  • Joint infections
  • Juvenile idiopathic arthritis
  • Psoriatic arthritis
  • Reactive arthritis
  • Septic arthritis
  • Thumb arthritis

Chronic Pain

The effect that chronic pain can have on someone’s life is hard to understand if it isn’t something you have personally experienced. Chronic pain isn’t something you just get accustomed to. It continuously affects the afflicted person’s activity level, making many daily tasks difficult, sometimes impossible, to perform.

It can be hard to be the person who loses some of their independence as some tasks get too hard to accomplish. It can also be hard to be the person who needs to care for a loved one with chronic pain. The shift chronic pain causes in relationships can take a toll.

Between the pain, loss of independence, not being able to do favorite activities, strained relationships, and many other factors, it is understandable that many people with chronic pain admit that it takes a huge toll on their mental health and quality of life.

Living With Arthritis

Senior woman consulting with a doctor for her arthritis

Being diagnosed with arthritis and living with arthritis can be hard, but there are options to try that could greatly improve your quality of life.

Medication

There are many medications for different types of arthritis (6). The medication options, their benefits, their side effects, and how they react with one another should be discussed with a doctor.

  • Painkillers are one common medication option. They address pain, but not inflammation. These can range from over-the-counter medications, like Tylenol, to opioids, like tramadol. Doctors are prescribing opioids less often now than they used to since it is very easy to get addicted to them.
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are an option that can help reduce pain and inflammation. These are over-the-counter NSAIDS options, like Motrin, but there are also some options that require a prescription. NSAIDs can also be found in gels and creams. Common side effects for oral NSAIDs are stomach irritation and increased risk of heart attack or stroke.
  • Counterirritants are another common option. These are creams or ointments with ingredients, such as methanol, that may interfere with the transmission of the pain signal from the joints.
  • Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) are used to slow the progression of joint damage by preventing the immune system from attacking the joints. These are used most commonly for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Biologic response modifiers are usually used in conjunction with DMARDs.
  • Corticosteroids can be taken orally or injected directly into the joint to reduce inflammation and suppress the immune system. One example would be Prednisone.

Physical Therapy

Physical therapy can be beneficial on its own or in conjunction with medications and other treatment options. A doctor can refer you to a physical therapist that understands how arthritis affects the body. Before meeting with a physical therapist, it is valuable to come up with goals you would like to achieve so the physical therapist can design a program to help you reach those goals (7). These goals can range drastically. Some people want to be able to get in and out of their car without pain. Other people want to continue working or playing sports for as long as possible. Some of the ways a physical therapist can help are:

  • Teach correct posture and proper movement to reduce pain and improve mobility.
  • Teach the correct way to use assistive devices, such as canes and walkers.
  • Suggest changes to your home and work environment to reduce pain and improve mobility. These could be simple changes, like keeping commonly used items in convenient locations to avoid unnecessary strain or bigger changes, like moving a bedroom to the main floor to reduce the number of stairs you have to climb each day.
  • Suggest other treatment options, such as hot and cold therapy to reduce stiffness or shoe orthotics to keep the body in alignment and reduce pain.

Young woman working with a physical therapist to treat her arthritis

Surgery

Surgery is usually only recommended if other treatment options have already been exhausted. These surgeries can improve the quality of life for many people with arthritis when other options no longer work. There are 3 main types of surgeries for arthritis.

Joint Repair - Smoothing joint surfaces and/or realigning joints can reduce pain and improve mobility in some cases. These surgeries are often minimally invasive.
Joint Replacement - Joint replacement is probably the most well-known arthritis surgery. Joint replacement is a surgery where a joint is taken out and replaced with an artificial one. These are more commonly performed on the hips and knees.
Joint Fusion - Joint fusion, also known as arthrodesis, is only performed in severe arthritis cases (8). In joint fusion surgery, bones are fused together in hopes of creating a more stable bone with a large decrease in pain. Typically, this is done in smaller joints, such as the hands, feet, and wrists.

Diet

Diet plays an especially important role with Gout. Thankfully, there are many diet plans designed to reduce the severity and frequency of gout symptoms. Though the link between diet and gout symptoms is the most easily seen, people with other types of arthritis can benefit from anti-inflammatory diets as well.

Infographic displaying foods to eat and avoid with Gout.

Another Option for Reducing Arthritis and Chronic Pain Symptoms

Many people with arthritis or other chronic pain problems continue to live with pain, even on a carefully designed treatment plan. Others find that when they have a flare-up, their normal treatment is not enough. We specifically designed our Pain Warrior Blend with chronic pain sufferers in mind.

Two of the main ingredients of our Pain Warrior Blend are CBD oil and DMSO. CBD is hitting the healthcare industry by storm right now. CBD has natural pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory properties, and many people have found that it is helping them when commercial products fail to give the desired results.

In addition to having pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory properties of its own, DMSO also has a unique ability to easily penetrate the skin and carry other ingredients with it. This means that you shouldn’t need as much CBD as you would with an ordinary CBD oil or salve.

 

For additional relief from arthritis pain, try our Pain Warrior today.

 

References:

  1. https://www.cdc.gov/chronicdisease/resources/publications/factsheets/arthritis.htm
  2. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/arthritis/symptoms-causes/syc-20350772
  3. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/osteoarthritis/symptoms-causes/syc-20351925
  4. https://www.rheumatology.org/I-Am-A/Patient-Caregiver/Diseases-Conditions/Rheumatoid-Arthritis
  5. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/gout/symptoms-causes/syc-20372897
  6. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/arthritis/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20350777
  7. https://www.arthritis.org/health-wellness/treatment/complementary-therapies/physical-therapies/physical-therapy-for-arthritis
  8. https://reverehealth.com/live-better/joint-fusion-surgery-faq/

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