How is Arthritis treated?

What is Arthritis?

The word arthritis comes from the Greek arthron meaning “joint” and the Latin itis meaning “inflammation”. The plural of arthritis is arthritides. Arthritis affects the musculoskeletal system, specifically the joints. It is the main cause of disability among people over fifty-five years of age in industrialized countries.

Arthritis is not a single disease – it is a term that covers over 100 medical conditions. Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common form of arthritis and generally affects elderly patients. Some forms of arthritis can affect people at a very early age.

How is Arthritis treated?

Arthritis is an extremely painful and potentially debilitating condition, which now affects over one in ten people in the developed world. It can lead to a reduced ability to carry out many of the essential tasks of daily life and often impair the sufferer’s ability to do their job of work. There are many different types of arthritis, with varying symptoms, but most types involve some kind of inflammation of the joints, making movement difficult and often painful. It is very important to make a correct diagnosis, in order for the proper treatment to be carried out.

The first step you need to take if you suspect you may have arthritis is to visit a qualified medical practitioner. Usually this will involve referral to a hospital where X ray and blood tests will be performed. Sometimes there will be a specialist on site who will be able to administer more advanced forms of tests and give advice on the spot. Once a diagnosis has been made, there are various treatments that can be applied. The most obvious and crude, of these treatments is the simple pain killing drug, such as aspirin or paracetamol. Aspirin is preferred in many cases as it has anti-inflammatory properties. Many of these basic painkillers are available without prescription, so it vitally important to inform your physician if you intend to take these on top of any prescribed medicine.

Anti inflammatory drugs are vitally important as they not only reduce pain, but also lessen the irreversible damage which is often done to joints when arthritis flares up. These are the most common form of treatment prescribed for arthritis and come in two basic types. NSAIDs, Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, are very common, but it takes a prolonged period of use for them to become effective. There have also been serious concerns expressed about the side effects of these drugs and the potential stomach problems that they can cause. Steroids are synthetic hormones, which mirror natural substances found in the body, but in artificial form the body tolerates them poorly. Steroids are extremely powerful medicines and are usually used in the initial stages of treatment, before other, less overpowering, treatments are employed.

As arthritis is a condition which affects the joints, it is important to consider different forms of exercise and forms of rest between exercise and how they will affect your specific condition. Arthritis sufferers are usually best advised to exercise daily, in order to prevent joints from seizing up and becoming stiff. As a form of general exercise, swimming is especially beneficial to the arthritis sufferer – as the weight of the body is distributed throughout the water, rather than being concentrated on the limbs and joints, as it is with so many other forms of exercise. This makes the movement of the joints a lot easier and reduces the pressure on points, which can be very painful if overburdened.

Exercises done in water are now routinely available at hospitals. Water is a great help for many arthritis sufferers, as the warmth of the water helps stiff joints to move. It is even possible to perform muscle-strengthening exercises under water. This a good idea as strong muscles help joints to move more smoothly, reducing the pain from arthritis naturally and with only positive side effects. These kinds of water-based treatments are highly recommended and may reduce the arthritis patient’s need for powerful synthetic drugs with severe side effects.

Some advices for treating Arthritis in brief:

# Exercise 20 to 30 minutes a day, and get a full eight hours of sleep at night. Avoid any exercise that produces joint pain that lasts an hour after the exercise is over. Don’t attempt to “walk off the pain.”
# Practice good body posture, and lift heavy items with your hip muscles, not your back. Never carry something if you can pull it behind you.
# Practice range-of-motion exercises, or have physical therapy. Ask your doctor or local hospital about exercise classes or hydrotherapy, which is gentle exercising done in the water.
# Elevate the affected joint or joints for 15 minutes a day, several times a day.
# Apply warm compresses to the painful joints. Generally, 20 minutes on, 20 minutes off works best.
# Lose weight if you are overweight.
# Sleep on a firm mattress and avoid soft chairs.
# Protect your joints by wearing warm clothing.
# Ask your doctor about splints, canes, and/or surgery for unrelenting pain or deformity caused by arthritis.
# Practice yoga or listen to relaxation tapes. Muscles surround your joints, and a tense muscle applies stress to a joint.
# Talk to your doctor about taking aspirin for pain. It is the drug of choice for arthritic discomfort. Consider indomethacin, ibuprofen and/or naproxen for arthritic pain unrelieved with aspirin, or if you are allergic to aspirin.

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Disclaimer: This content including advice provides generic information only. It is in no way a substitute for qualified medical opinion. Always consult a specialist or your own doctor for more information. NDTV does not claim responsibility for this information.

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