Pain/Inflammation: Arthritis

June 10th 2014



Overview

Arthritis is a condition that involves inflammation of several joints, causing pain that can be severe and cause limited movement. More than 50 million people in the United States report that they suffer from some type of arthritis. The most common complaint by individuals who have arthritis is joint pain, which is often constant and may be localized to the affected area.

Signs and Symptoms

Although the signs and symptoms of arthritis may vary in different individuals, they often include:

  • Pain/inflammation
  • Fatigue
  • Poor sleep
  • Stiffness
  • Muscle aches and pains
  • Tenderness
  • Fever
  • Weight loss
  • Inability to use hands or walk
  • Difficulty using the joint

Causes/Common Triggers

Just as there are many different types of arthritis, there are also several different circumstances that can trigger the condition, including the wearing of joints, an immune reaction called inflammation, and an injury or a disability. Some may find that certain foods tend to worsen their arthritis pain. In these cases, it may be helpful to keep a diary to help determine which foods can trigger pain or inflammation.

Tests and Diagnosis

When diagnosing arthritis, physicians obtain a complete personal and medical history, and may also request a blood, urine, or joint fluid test to confirm the diagnosis of a specific type of arthritis or the presence of other diseases that might complicate treatment. Imaging tests such as an x-ray, computerized tomography, magnetic resonance imaging, or ultrasound may be ordered. In some cases, a physician may recommend an arthroscopy, a more invasive method in which a small flexible tube with a camera on 1 end is inserted into an incision near the joint to provide a better visual.

Prevention

The most effective way to prevent arthritis is to maintain a healthy lifestyle and take steps to protect the joints, including:

  • Reducing repetitive strain
  • Regularly exercising joints
  • Managing stress
  • Maintaining a healthy diet with appropriate supplements
  • Staying hydrated

Management

A number of lifestyle changes can be incorporated to help individuals more successfully manage the symptoms of arthritis, including:

  • Physical/occupational therapy
  • Use of splints or other aids
  • Avoiding known triggers

Treatment and Care

Patients who have arthritis should work with their health care providers, including primary care physicians, rheumatologists, and pharmacists, to create an individualized treatment plan. Treatments may include prescription drugs such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, biologic response modifiers, corticosteroids, analgesics, and disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs. Depending on the severity of the symptoms, surgery may be recommended.

Homeopathic and Alternative Remedies

Many patients with arthritis rely on alternative forms of treatment, including herbal remedies, homeopathic medicine, and several other unconventional therapies, which include:

  • Acupuncture
  • Meditation
  • Hypnosis
  • Aromatherapy
  • Electrical stimulation

Self-Care

Most OTC products available for the treatment of arthritis are aimed at providing pain relief and reducing inflammation. Patients can use anti-inflammatory drugs, acetaminophen, aspirin, herbal supplements, and topical ointments to help manage the symptoms of arthritis. To prevent drug interactions or adverse reactions, it is important to discuss the use of these products with a physician or a pharmacist beforehand.

Resources for Patients

The following resources will provide patients with more information on preventing and managing arthritis:

  • Partners Against Pain
  • Power Over Your Pain
  • Pain Edu

Resources for Pharmacists

  • American Chronic Pain Association
  • National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases

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