Arthritis (arthron = joint, itis = inflammation) is the general name given to a broad group of conditions that cause inflammation of the joint structures such as the capsule, articular cartilage, meniscus, bone, tendon, and/or ligament. Arthritis is often accompanied by chronic pain and can lead to severe physical disabilities, augmented by the aging process. An estimated 40 million people in America are significantly affected by more than 100 different forms of arthritis, such as generative arthritis, aka osteoarthritis (accounting for the vast majority), rheumatoid arthritis, bacterial arthritis, and gout, just to name a few. Depending upon the type of arthritis, symptoms can be manifested in many ways, ranging from mild to severely debilitating pain, swelling, and/or stiffness.
What are the causes?
Arthritic changes in joints can start long before a person is aware of it and, once diagnosed, arthritis progresses at different paces and with varying associated problems.
As discussed above, the causes of arthritis vary widely. Joint overuse, injury, and aging are the primary reasons for the onset of osteoarthritis (e.g. a sports injury to the knee or shoulder while a youth can often lead to arthritis later). Researchers suspect that an inherited defective gene may be another factor. Many forms of arthritis tend to run in families and may possibly be linked through a recessive gene.
While the exact cause of rheumatoid arthritis is unknown, scientists do know that strong genetic factors are usually involved in an immune system out of control. Some have suggested it is the combination of a particular genetic makeup with an outside event (e.g. viral infection) that most often triggers the disease cycle.
What treatment options are available?
A treatment plan must be tailored to fit not only the specific form of arthritis, but also the patient’s level of pain tolerance. At PainCare, we believe it is vitally important to maintain a daily exercise program that includes incremental range of motion and strengthening. Staying active in general and maintaining ideal body weight will generally optimize range of motion and overall function. Just 30 minutes a day of regular exercise has been clearly shown to improve overall health and actually make you feel more energetic over time.
Treatments may include medications such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDS), glucosamine/chondroitin, steroids, and less commonly autoimmune drugs. Simple injections into the joint using steroid or lubricant (Synvisc, Hyalgan, Euflexxa) can be extremely beneficial. Physical therapy can also be useful in treating select patients. Traditional physical therapy is offered through Somersworth Physical Therapy and a more holistic approach is offered through Total Body Therapy. Ultimately, if all else fails, some joints, especially knees, hips, and shoulders, can be replaced.