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Arthritis: What You Can Do About It

ArthritisArthritis can be a painful and debilitating disease. In fact, it is the number one leading cause for disability worldwide. What can you do for your arthritis? Do you have to resort to taking pain medicines or surgery? How do you know which treatment is right for you?

There are 2 main forms of arthritis:  Osteo (OA), and Rheumatoid (RA).  It is important to know which one you have, because they are quite different from each other.  Both are chronic (long term) diseases and neither have a cure. However, there are treatments that make the pain more manageable. If you’re not sure what kind of arthritis you have, be sure to talk with your doctor.

Self-Care

Whether you suffer from RA or osteoarthritis, self-care is an important tool to combat the pain of these diseases. People with both rheumatoid arthritis and OA may benefit from heating pads, to increase blood flow to the area, or ice, to reduce inflammation. If you’re overweight, losing weight will help take the strain off your joints that are already inflamed due to arthritis. Try exercising and eating a well-balanced diet. Eating a well-balanced diet with an increase in Omega-3 fatty acids (found in fish, walnuts, and spinach) has been shown to help reduce inflammation, but scientists stress the importance of eating a balanced diet instead of focusing on one nutrient. As important as exercise is, so is knowing your limits and listening to your body. Don’t forget to rest.

Medications

There are a variety of available medications for arthritis.  Your doctor will help you find the right combination for you.

Over the Counter

Pain medicines or analgesics, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), can help with the aching of from both RA and OA. If you need to reduce inflammation, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are your best option. Some common NSAIDs are aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil), and naproxen sodium (Aleve). Take care to use as directed. Also, tell your doctor how much and how often you are taking analgesics or NSAIDs. Prolonged use can be detrimental to your health. Topical treatments include capsaicin cream and lidocaine patches. While the capsaicin cream may intensify pain at first, after continued use the pain should subside. Again, be sure to consult your doctor before taking any medications.

Prescription

Both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis benefit from prescription NSAIDs which include:

  • Celecoxib (Celebrex)
  • Diclofenac (Cataflam, Voltaren)
  • Etodolac (Lodine)
  • Indomethacin (Indocin)
  • Meloxicam (Mobic)

Additionally, both OA and RA may benefit from using corticosteroids, often called steroids. Steroids are powerful medicines that reduce inflammation and can be taken orally or injected directly into the joint. But for RA, they have an added benefit; they suppress the overactive immune system that causes RA and decreases symptoms. Because steroids have negative side effects such as decreased immunity to infections, spike in blood sugar, and the potential to cause bone thinning, taking steroids for a short time is best. Talk with your doctor to weigh the benefits and the risks of steroid usage for you.

Alternative Therapies

Alternative therapies have become so mainstream that, in a 2010 survey, 42% of hospitals offered some form of it due to patient demand. Even some health insurance companies offer coverage for things like massage therapy and chiropractors. There is a lot of information on the web about alternative therapies, but not all of them haveeen tested in studies. Finding a good alternative practitioner can be difficult. You can protect yourself, your health, and your wallet by finding a practitioner that tells you the benefits as well as the risks. Find out more about alternative therapies in an upcoming article.

Surgery

Sometimes in severe cases the pain and degeneration of osteoarthritis can lead to surgical options such as total joint replacement. Patients with rheumatoid arthritis may also benefit from joint replacement. In severe cases of RA where joints are painfully deformed, surgery can relieve the pain and improve function where medicine and physical therapy have failed.

Physical and Occupational Therapies

Physical Therapists (PT) and Occupational Therapists (OT) can help you cope with your arthritis symptoms and pain, whether it be osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis. Often, they can assist you with range of motion and flexibility exercises and educate you on ways to properly move your joints so as not to further injure them. Therapists can also help pick out assistive devices, such as canes and walkers, as well as help finding steering wheel grips and jar openers. Physical and occupational therapists can help you get back to doing the things you enjoy, should you require surgery.

Conclusion

While osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis are not curable, they are manageable with various treatment options. In some severe cases, surgery is required. It’s important to be diagnosed properly and talk with your doctor about the options that are best for you to help ease your pain. If you’d like to find out more information, you can also check out this article about the different kinds of arthritis. If we can help in any way, please feel free to contact a care coordinator by calling 940-384-0393.

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