How to spot and manage the early stages of arthritis.
What is Arthritis?
Before we can assume that you have a condition that so many other people have, let's discuss exactly what arthritis is.
"Arthritis is simply joint inflammation," according to WebMD. But arthritis and its symptoms are much more complicated than that. Northwestern Medicine claims there are over 100 variations of arthritis. Arthritis is a condition where your joints become inflamed. There are multiple causes and symptoms of arthritis, but the most pressing symptom for people is pain. Pain from arthritis can be unbearable at times, but understanding what arthritis is can help you put together a plan to help manage the pain.
Common risk factors for arthritis, according to WebMD, include:
- Gender (most common in women)
- Being overweight
- Repetitive movements
The most common form of arthritis, and what we will focus on, is osteoarthritis. This is when the cartilage between your joints fades away over time and your bones begin to rub against one another. This causes inflammation and pain in whichever joint is being affected. Osteoarthritis is the most common because it typically occurs over time as you age. But, osteoarthritis may also occur because of:
- Torn cartilage
- A dislocated joint
- A ligament injury
What Does Osteoarthritis Affect?
Osteoarthritis affects your joints, mobility, and quality of life. Once symptoms start to arise, you may notice difficulty doing tasks that are normally easyThis varies based upon which area of your body is being affected with arthritis.
For example, walking may become difficult if you are experiencing arthritis in your foot, hip, or knee. If you are experiencing arthritis in your shoulder, elbow, or hands, writing may become difficult.
No two people experience arthritis in the exact same fashion, which can make it frustrating to deal with. The symptoms of osteoarthritis are the same, but the part that becomes frustrating is how it can happen to any joint on your body.
Some of the most common areas that osteoarthritis effect are:
- Lower back
If ignored, osteoarthritis can lead to joint replacement, but beginning to manage your symptoms and reaching out to your physician can help lower the chances of replacing a joint.
Fully understanding the possible symptoms of osteoarthritis is the first step in overcoming your pain. . This way, you can make educated decisions about a pain management regimen.
What are the Symptoms of Osteoarthritis?
Different symptoms of osteoarthritis also produce different experiences. Carthage Area Hospital lists symptoms as:
- Pain, stiffness, and tenderness
- Muscle Fatigue
- Decreased range of motion
- Deformity in joints
These symptoms can be overwhelming at times. If you or anyone you know begins to experience them, it may be time to consult a physician.
Detecting osteoarthritis fast and early can help avoid pain.
While there is no cure for osteoarthritis, there are ways to help manage the pain. Everyone has options, whether you are looking for a prescription, want to keep things over-the-counter (OTC), or wish to change your lifestyle.
What to do if you Show Signs of Osteoarthritis.
The first thing you should do if you begin to experience osteoarthritis symptoms is talk with your physician. There may be alternative ways to manage your pain that a doctor can prescribe. As always, remember that some medications have side effects, and taking medication for long periods of time will build up a tolerance, and could result in addiction.
If all else fails, there are ways to naturally help combat the pain caused by osteoarthritis. After speaking with your doctor, they may advise you to consider cortical steroid shots or prescription-strength medication for the pain. These methods can be paired with natural forms of pain management. You may also stick solely with natural options if you feel concerned about the side effects of pharmaceuticals.
The best form of osteoarthritis pain relief is a combination of prescription and natural pain relief methods.
There are a few natural ways to manage pain and inflammation caused by arthritis. Let’s take a look at diet, OTC medications, and lifestyle changes as key methods.
How to Manage Your Osteoarthritis Pain Naturally.
What you eat has a direct correlation to how your body will act. Following a healthy diet is critical when looking for natural ways to manage symptoms of osteoarthritis.
"Research suggests that certain foods can help reduce pain and inflammation associated with osteoarthritis," according to WebMD. Below are some diet pointers that have been shown to help reduce inflammation and swelling:
- Fish oil (Omega-3)
- Foods low in animal and dairy fats
- Herbs such as ginger, borage seed oil (check with your doctor if you have preexisting conditions)
- Green tea
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin D
- Beta-carotene (most vegetables)
Here is our guide to the Top Foods that Combat Inflammation.
Over The Counter (OTC) Medications
OTC medications are a great way to fill the gap between your prescription needs and your pain. Prescription-strength medicine isn’t for everyone. This can be because of interactions with existing prescriptions, allergies, or personal beliefs.
Some OTC medications can help relieve pain from arthritis with fewer side effects than prescriptions.
Many OTC's are safe for use, but some of them still come with risks. Always consult your physician before trying out an OTC to make sure you are not at risk for side effects.
There are plenty of OTC options to help relieve osteoarthritis pain. The main forms are oral and topical.
Oral OTC Relief
These options reduce swelling and inflammation. However, they have their pros and cons.
Some of these OTC pain relievers have adverse side effects when mixed with other medications. If you have a preexisting condition, ask your physician if these are safe for use.
Topical OTC Relief
- Icy Hot
Voltaren and Icy Hot are both tried and true osteoarthritis pain relievers. Both have formulas that offer close to prescription-strength relief in an OTC product. Be careful when selecting these two because they have known side effects if you experience preexisting conditions.
Capsiva is a natural alternative OTC arthritis relief gel. Capsiva uses a homeopathic proprietary formula that can help reduce swelling and block/reduce pain signals.
Take a look at our Ultimate Guide to Over-the-Counter Pain Relief for Arthritis.
The best way to treat symptoms is with lifestyle changes. While this may not beat surgery or pharmaceuticals, it is a good starting place for those who want to avoid taking pain medications and injections.
Lifestyle changes include:
- Weight loss (in some cases)
- Avoiding smoking
- Getting adequate sleep/ rest
- Exercising regularly
These lifestyle changes are sure to help with pain relief. They are also great for general wellness.
Movement and light exercise can help you maintain a healthy weight that will minimize the amount of excess stress you are placing on your joints, which are being affected by arthritis.
Regular smoking can cause adverse effects with preexisting conditions and also increase your risk of Rheumatoid arthritis. Similar to exercise/weight loss, this is a healthy lifestyle change that will benefit your overall health.
Lastly, getting adequate sleep can help the body reduce inflammation and relieve pain. Our body works overtime to recover while we sleep. This can be applied to not only fatigue but inflammation as well!
Check out a more in depth look on these lifestyle changes that help with arthritis.
Now that we have a brief overview of what arthritis is, the risks of arthritis, and how to manage pain from arthritis, we can start to think about a holistic approach to pain management.
The first step should always be to consult your physician. After that, you can mix and match almost all of these arthritis relief methods to create a regimen that works for you.