The CDC reports that approximately fifty five million adult Americans have been diagnosed with arthritis. Simply put, arthritis is inflammation of the joints, which causes a number of unpleasant symptoms including joint pain and stiffness.

Common Types of Arthritis

The most common types of arthritis are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Many people are surprised to learn that the treatment protocols as well as the cause of these two types of arthritis are quite different. Osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis have many of the same symptoms; however, they develop much differently.

Rheumatoid arthritis typically develops on both sides of the body and affects the hands, fingers, elbows, knees, hips, and feet. It can cause a number of flu like symptoms, fever, and systemic inflammation.

Osteoarthritis, the most common type of arthritis, usually only affects a few joints and may only occur on one side of the body.

Risk Factors for Arthritis

The risk factors for developing arthritis include:

  • Age – Your risk of developing arthritis, including rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis, increases with age.
  • Genetics – If you have a family member who has been diagnosed with arthritis, you are at an increased risk of developing it yourself.
  • Obesity – Being overweight places more stress on your spine, knees, and joints, which can lead to an increased risk of developing arthritis.
  • Previous Injury – If you have injured a joint in the past, you are at an increased risk of developing arthritis in that particular joint.
  • Sex – Women are typically more likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis than men. Osteoarthritis affects both sexes equally.

Causes of Arthritis

Your joints contain protective tissues, including cartilage that prevent bones from scraping against each other and ensure smooth movement of your joints. Arthritis damages these tissues; however, the cause of this damage is different in osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

Rheumatoid arthritis occurs when your immune system mistakenly thinks the healthy tissues in your joints are foreign invaders. When this occurs, the immune system releases enzymes that can destroy those tissues. Because this is an autoimmune disorder and the immune system is involved, you may experience weight loss, fatigue, fever, and systemic inflammation. In addition to these symptoms, you may experience joint pain, joint stiffness, and joint swelling.

Osteoarthritis is considered a wear and tear disease. This type of arthritis occurs when the cartilage and tissues that protect your joints wear down over time. Repetitive movements like those performed in certain jobs or sports can place increased pressure on the joints and cause wear and tear. In addition to this, you can develop bone spurs on your joints, which can cause them to become painful, still, and difficult to move.

Symptoms of Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis

Many of the symptoms of osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis are the same, including decreased joint mobility, swelling, pain, and stiffness. The symptoms are often worse after sleep or resting for a long period of time. With osteoarthritis, the stiffness typically improves in about thirty minutes. Conversely, the stiffness lasts much longer.

The most common symptoms of osteoarthritis include:

  • Creaking – Your joints may creak and crack due to osteoarthritis.
  • Deformities – Osteoarthritis can cause joint deformity.
  • Joint Pain – Joint pain can be described as a sharp pain, a deep aching, or even a burning sensation. The pain is typically found in the feet, hands, hips, knees, and spine; however, it can affect other joints.
  • Morning Time Stiffness – Sufferers often experience morning time stiffness; however, it usually eases once you begin moving around.
  • Muscle Weakness – Osteoarthritis sufferers often experience weakness around arthritic joints, especially the knee.
  • Range of Motion – As osteoarthritis progresses, sufferers may experience loss of joint function and reduced range of motion.

The most common symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis are:

  • Affects the Entire Body – Rheumatoid arthritis affects both sides of the body and the inflammation can occur in areas of the body besides the joints like the lungs, nerves, heart, blood vessels, and the eyes.
  • Bumps and Nodules – Bumps and nodules may form on the knuckles and elbows as rheumatoid arthritis persists.
  • Inflammation – Rheumatoid arthritis, when not properly managed, can cause systemic inflammation and lead to irreversible, permanent joint damage.
  • Joint Pain, Stiffness, and Swelling – Rheumatoid arthritis typically causes stiffness, pain, and swelling in the joints found in the ankle, elbows, feet, hands, and knees.

Treatment Options for Arthritis

Osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis are chronic conditions that will not go away on their own. Although there is no cure for arthritis, there are many things that can be done to improve the overall quality of your life, reduce the severity of your symptoms, and slow the progression of the disease.

A variety of medications can be used to relieve your joint pain, reduce inflammation, and slow the damage to your joints, including NSAID pain relievers, corticosteroids, and disease modifying antirheumatic drugs. Unfortunately, many of these medications may cause undesirable side effects.

If your integrative pain doctor suspects you have osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis, you may be recommended to complete some diagnostic tests as well as provide a complete medical and family history. Your doctor may evaluate your symptoms including looking for swelling and joint tenderness.

Physical therapy may help to increase your range of motion and to help strengthen the muscles around your joints. In addition to this, your doctor may recommend using braces or splints to support the affected joints.

Surgery may be recommended if other treatment methods do not work. Some of the types of surgeries used for arthritis include joint fusion, joint repair, and joint replacement.

In addition to these medical treatments, you can reduce or relieve the symptoms of arthritis with a variety of lifestyle modifications and home remedies, including:

  • Hot and Cold Therapy – Placing ice on your affected joints helps to numb the area and relieve your pain. Placing a heating pad on your affected joints helps to increase blood flow to the area and relieve your pain.
  • Physical Activity – Regular exercise helps improve flexibility in your joints and strengthen the muscles surrounding your joints. To help reduce stress on your joints, opt for joint friendly exercises like swimming or water aerobics.
  • Weight Loss – Excess weight can stress your weight bearing joints. Maintaining a healthy weight may help prevent future joint injury and may increase your mobility.

The integrative doctors at Rose Wellness understand how arthritis can impact every area of your life. If you are experiencing joint pain, contact us today to see how we can help minimize joint pain and stiffness, protect against further joint damage, and show you ways to help improve your quality of life.