Maybe you’ve felt that deep ache in one of your joints. Straightening your elbow or wrist after being at the computer brings on a new type of pain, one you have to stretch out to get rid of that stiff feeling. Or perhaps when you stand up after prolonged sitting, your knees don’t feel the way they used to. Is there a little pop sound when you rise to your feet?
You wonder, “Do I have arthritis? What are the symptoms?” If it is arthritis, what type could you be suffering from? Keep reading to learn the symptoms of two main types of arthritis, along with how the Orthopaedic Institute of Ohio can help you to feel better.
Pain and/or stiffness in your joints caused by inflammation characterize the disease we call arthritis. If you’re feeling pain in your joints, one of the following types of arthritis could be the cause.
Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common form of arthritis. It’s considered a degenerative disease since its onset typically comes with aging. But it’s not limited to the elderly. Sometimes osteoarthritis follows joint trauma, such as a badly injured knee that develops arthritis years later.
OA most often affects hands and weight-bearing joints, like knees, hips, feet and the spine. You’ll notice it comes on gradually and gets worse over time. OA affects specific joints — it typically isn’t widespread or present in both sides of the body equally. For example, if you have OA in one injured knee, it most likely won’t occur in the other without a previous injury.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease that attacks the healthy cells in your joints, causing swelling in places like your hands, wrists or knees. RA can be one of the most painful types of arthritis because it affects your joints and other surrounding tissues, including muscles and organs.
This tissue damage can cause chronic pain, loss of balance or physical changes in areas like the lungs, heart or eyes. RA is degenerative to your entire body, causing widespread inflammation and associated effects like fatigue, pain and depression.
The most common reasons to suspect your pain is arthritis include swelling, reduced range of motion and stiffness.
The area may become tender to the touch; maybe it’s even visibly red or feels warm. Sometimes your pain may worsen in the morning and/or flare up after vigorous activity. You could hear creaking, clicking, snapping or grinding noises with movement or change in position. In more advanced cases, you may see a bump over the joint, appear deformed and feel grating with motion.
RA symptoms include aching, stiffness, tenderness or swelling in more than one joint. You’ll notice you experience the same symptoms on both sides of the body (such as in both knees). These symptoms may be accompanied by sudden weight loss, fatigue, tiredness and fever.
If you think you have arthritis, please schedule your consultation to start with a diagnosis for your pain. Tests like an X-ray, MRI or arthroscopy may show joint changes and bone damage for some types of arthritis. Ultrasound can see the quality of tissue, tendons, ligaments and bones. And an analysis of blood, urine and joint fluid may help pinpoint the type of arthritis you have. Our physicians can help determine which method(s) are the best for you.
Unfortunately, there’s no cure for arthritis. The treatment goals are to limit pain and inflammation and preserve joint function. Some of your options include medicines, weight reduction, exercise and surgery. Your treatment options will depend on the type of arthritis you have.
Early OA treatment includes lifestyle modification, stretching and exercises to maintain joint motion. As the disease progresses, the pain will increase. Early on, over-the-counter pain remedies such as aspirin, acetaminophen and ibuprofen are often recommended and may later be substituted with more powerful anti-inflammatory drugs or even short courses of oral steroids. Your doctor may use steroids or “lubricant” joint injections to relieve pain.
Surgery is your last option for OA treatment. Arthroscopy of the diseased joint can ease pain and return function for a short time. Ultimately, joint replacement may be necessary to eliminate discomfort.
Early treatments for RA are similar to those for OA, like medications and activity modification, but more potent drugs are often introduced earlier in treating RA. Specific RA medications, including Plaquenil, methotrexate or Embril, might be necessary to slow the RA progression and treat your symptoms. Injections are used judiciously to lessen the number of medications used. Just as in OS, eventually, joint replacement is necessary to relieve suffering and correct deformity.
If you’re suffering from daily pain, you’ll need to manage it indefinitely with lifestyle changes. Revising your daily routines can make living with arthritis more manageable, such as reducing or eliminating activities that exacerbate your symptoms. Changes in your everyday life can reduce pain and slow the progression of your arthritis.
Some of those changes could include:
Wearing a device might be a good idea. A brace will help support the painful joint and reduce the stress from frequent usage. Or you might benefit from a walking device like a cane. Proper support from shock-absorbing shoes or orthotic inserts is excellent for arthritis of the lower back, knee, ankle or foot.
Applying ice and heat packs or soaking in alternating baths of warm and cold water for short periods several times per day can go a long way to reducing swelling. Some patients are inclined to explore alternative therapies such as acupuncture or stem cell injections.
A physical therapist or occupational therapist can work with your doctor to help you find an effective combination of treatments to manage your symptoms. Some of these include stretching exercises that strengthen support muscles or ways to adjust your daily routines to keep your symptoms at bay.
Surgery is a last resort but will be considered if nonsurgical approaches do not relieve the pain and inflammation or lose effectiveness. Arthritis surgery will reduce pain while preserving or improving joint function by minimizing or ending bone-on-bone contact or replacing a crippled joint.
The decision to treat arthritis surgically depends upon the patient’s age and activity level, the condition of the affected joint and the extent of the disease’s progression. Surgical options for arthritis are listedhere. An orthopedic surgeon will discuss which procedure will work best in your case.
Our experienced physicians are committed to giving patients the option to live a painless life. We offer a comprehensive range of arthritis treatment options, from nonsurgical therapies to surgical joint replacements.
To get started with a consultation, diagnosis and personalized treatment plan for your joint pain, don’t hesitate to contact the Orthopaedic Institute of Ohio at 419-222-6622.