There are many different types of arthritis and everyone’s case can differ in terms of severity. Because of this, it is important to schedule regular doctor visits, especially as you age, so your doctor can assess any complaints of joint pain or swelling, and can notice any changes to your mobility and range of motion. Many types of arthritis come on slowly and silently, and may cause damage before a patient notices significant symptoms. Depending on how far a patient’s disease has progressed, there are various treatment options starting with simple lifestyle changes and going all the way to joint replacement surgery.
Anyone can benefit from a healthier lifestyle of nutritious eating and regular exercise, but this is especially important for those suffering from the symptoms of arthritis. Maintaining a healthy weight is critical in order to reduce extra pressure on the joints, so eating lots of fruits and vegetables is beneficial. Managing stress and getting adequate rest can help reduce arthritis pain as well.
Physical therapy does not provide the instant relief that some medications offer, but over time it will improve joint mobility and strengthen muscles that surround the affected joints. Therapists can teach patients how to work out stiffness in their joints without causing further damage, and can give exercises for them to do at home to keep their joints functioning well. Aside from exercises, therapists may also use ultrasound treatments, hydrotherapy, heat or cold therapy, or transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS).
This is by far the most popular type of treatment for arthritis. There are many over-the-counter oral medications including acetaminophen, naproxen, and NSAIDs like ibuprofen. Topical creams and ointments can also provide relief from pain and soreness.
If the over-the-counter options are not sufficient, doctors can prescribe stronger medications that help reduce inflammation and relieve pain. Some popular arthritis medications available by prescription are COX-2 inhibitors (a type of NSAID that targets an enzyme responsible for inflammation), cortisone injections, steroids, and prescription pain killers. In the case of rheumatoid arthritis, DMARDs can reduce inflammation and biologic drugs can help curb immune reactions.
If none of the lifestyle changes, physical therapy or medications are helping, or if your arthritis has progressed to a point where there is significant joint damage, surgery may be necessary. This sometimes entails replacing only damaged parts of the joint, but can often mean total joint replacement. Surgery is always reserved as a last resort and for the most severe cases.
Getting a proper diagnosis at the first sign of possible arthritis is the key to preventing the disease from progressing too far. Since there are many types of arthritis, each patient may be treated differently based on the cause and severity. Following your doctor’s treatment plan carefully, including a healthy lifestyle, exercises and physical therapy, and taking any medications you are given is key to managing pain and preventing further joint damage.