woman and doctor looking at x-ray of hand and discussing arthritis treatments

Arthritis Treatments

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Arthritis does not refer to one disorder -- it refers to over 100 different types of joint pain and disease. The most common type of arthritis is osteoarthritis, a degenerative form. Other common arthritides include inflammatory, infectious, and metabolic classes. While these all have different causes and some of their defining symptoms vary, ultimately, all forms of arthritis have three things in common: joint pain, joint stiffness, and joint swelling. Here’s a look at how to treat these arthritic joint problems and the limitations that come with them. 

Life Style Choices

Each case of arthritis is different in many ways, not the least of which is the severity. A minor case of arthritis may benefit greatly from a few simple changes. It is important to note that these are not alternative for visiting your doctor, as many types of arthritis need thorough treatment options as soon as possible to prevent debilitating effects later in life, no matter how mild the pain is presently. 

Excess weight on your frame can put a lot of pressure on virtually every joint in the body. Adopting a healthier diet and getting adequate exercise (even if it’s only a 30-minute walk five days a week) can do wonders for your whole body and help manage arthritis pain. Some foods can even help with inflammation, which is at the root of most types of arthritis. Likewise, it is important to end habits that are known for being problematic -- cigarette smoking, for example, is thought to have an impact on the development of rheumatoid arthritis. 

Medications

Your doctor can help you choose from a variety of different medications intended for helping with arthritis pain and symptoms. Inflammatory arthritides, incited by abnormalities in an overactive immune system, may benefit from an immunosuppressant, and even go into remission, which is the goal of these treatments. 

Over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDS) such as Aleve (naproxen sodium) can help with everyday pain, but your doctor may have a better option in mind that is only available through a prescription. Steroids can help reduce inflammation as well as have an effect on particular hormones which can manage pain. In some instances, pain may be severe enough to merit analgesics and other pain relievers. 

Injections

Some types of arthritis may be helped by receiving injections directly into the affected joint(s). Hyaluronic acid supplement injections can be beneficial for the knees. According to the Arthritis Foundation, hyaluronic acid “acts as a shock absorber and lubricant, allowing joints to move smoothly over each other,” but there isn’t as much as there should be when some types of arthritis are present. Injections of this substance can help the knee joints move better again. 

Additionally, corticosteroid injections can be given directly into the affected joint for relief. Sometimes they can be effective for several months, but there are potential side effects. 

Therapy

Engaging in different types of therapies can help your body in a lot of different ways. Working with a physical therapist can help you learn how to move in ways that allow you to compensate for your joints. Additionally, your therapist can help you discover exercises that allow you to stay healthy and active without destroying your joints even further. 

Hydrotherapy is an excellent option for exercise. Often performed in a pool, hydrotherapy allows you to exercise in water, which takes a considerable amount of pressure of your joints, allowing you to strengthen nearby muscles so your joints don’t have to work as hard. 

Surgery

Ultimately, you may find surgery is your only option. Inflammatory arthritides can result in hip replacements in patients as young as their forties. It is not uncommon for people with chronic arthritis to require surgery to replace the hips, knees, and other joints. If no other types of treatments are effective at reducing or diminishing your joint pain, talk to your doctor or a specialist about whether or not you are a candidate for surgery. 

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