Treatment For Hand Arthritis
Treating hand arthritis usually starts with conservative methods of taking anti-inflammatory medications, ice and heat therapy, splinting, and manipulation therapies. If pain persists, doctors may recommend steroid injections for immediate pain relief. However, this treatment method only offers temporary relief. When arthritis pain in the hand progresses and conservative treatments fail to bring relief, there may be damage to the hands joints, in which case, surgery may be necessary.
Symptoms Differ For Rheumatoid Arthritis
If you have rheumatoid arthritis, rather than osteoarthritis, your symptoms may differ, says orthopedic surgeon Michael Raab, MD.
Patients with osteoarthritis complain their joints hurt the more theyre up and about, he says.
Conversely, with rheumatoid arthritis patients typically state that when they wake up in the morning their joints are sore. And their pain is not just in one joint, but in symmetrical joints that is, in joints on both sides of the body, such as both hands, feet, or ankles.
And rheumatoid arthritis pain usually subsides after youve been up and moving. Symptoms are usually worse after a period of inactivity or the first thing in the morning.
Michael Raab, MD, explains differences in symptoms between osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
Click play to watch the video or read video transcript.
What are the signs and symptoms of osteoarthritis?
Who Can Help With My Joint Pain Or Arthritis
Your PCP will guide you in the right direction regarding which specialist you need to see in further treating your health concerns. Many health insurance plans require that a PCP first refer the patient to a consulting specialist before a visit to this specialist is covered by your medical plan.
If you suffer pain and disability due to arthritis, body trauma, injury, or an accident , an orthopedist can help. The staff at Orthopaedic Associates utilizes both cutting-edge therapies and traditional treatments to address a variety of orthopedic conditions.
For more information or to schedule a consultation, call 892-1440 or fill out our easy-to-use online appointment request form. We look forward to hearing from you.
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When To Call Your Doctor
You have good reason to make an appointment with your doctor if any of these joint symptoms last three days, or you experience several episodes of these symptoms within a month, says orthopedic surgeon Dennis Brown, MD. Symptoms include:
Keep in mind that joint symptoms tend to come on gradually not suddenly. But when the signs of osteoarthritis begin to limit your daily activities, its time to take action and call your doctor.
How To Talk To Your Doctor About Arthritis Pain
worse at certain times of the day.
If I notice that a patient has higher pain scores in the morning versus in the evening, I may tailormy medication management to that, Wright shares.
Does anything ease your pain? In your journal, make note of what youve tried and what helped or hurt. Options could include heat or ice, rest or over-the-counter pain medicine.
Be aware that it could take a while to find relief. Being able to communicate your pain will help get you closer to a solution.
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You Have Arthritis Or A Rheumatic Condition
Over a hundred types of arthritis exist, and arthritis doctors have the expertise to treat many of these conditions. An arthritis doctor can treat conditions like osteoarthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus, rheumatoid arthritis, vasculitis, sarcoidosis, polymyalgia rheumatic, Sjogrens syndrome, scleroderma, antiphospholipid syndrome, myositis and temporal arteritis. They can also treat certain rare diseases too.
How Can Working With A Rheumatologist Help You
Rheumatologists understand the biology of rheumatic diseases and are well-equipped with information to target and treat them, notes Ginsberg. A family practitioner may not have the depth of knowledge about some of these syndromes.
The best case scenario is having a primary care practitioner as well as a rheumatologist who both regularly coordinate arthritis care, he says.
As I was growing up, my pediatric rheumatologist used to send a report to my pediatrician after every visit. That made my file, back when they were kept in folders, very thick for both doctors. But it was important to have as much documented as possible, he says.
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Whether A Rheumatologist Has Been Your Partner In Health For Years Or Youre Pondering Seeing One For The First Time Heres Some Things To Know About These Quite Special Specialists
Heres the textbook definition of a rheumatologist from the American College of Rheumatology:
A rheumatologist is an internist or pediatrician who received further training in the diagnosis and treatment of musculoskeletal disease and systemic autoimmune conditions commonly referred to as rheumatic diseases. These diseases can affect the joints, muscles, and bones causing pain, swelling, stiffness, and deformity.
After they receive their MD or OD, rheumatologists spend three years training to become an internist or pediatrician, followed by two to three more years in a rheumatology fellowship.
Like all physicians, they are lifelong learners who take continuing medical education to keep up to date in their field especially with the emergence of new and complex treatments such as biologics.
Rheumatologists treat many similar joint diseases as orthopedists, but they dont do surgery. Many common diseases that they treat include rheumatoid arthritis, gout, lupus, osteoarthritis, and chronic back pain, but theres a lot about rheumatology you might not know. Read on to learn more about what rheumatologists do and when it makes sense to see one.
You Have Arthritis Pain Along With Other Conditions
Many people deal with some type of arthritis along with other conditions, like GERD or stomach ulcers. But if this is your case, be especially careful with self-medication.
Heres why: Many times, drugs to treat pain and inflammation conflict with drugs to treat other conditions. For example, long-term use of non-steroidal antiinflammatories can make digestive issues like ulcers worse, especially if youre taking a proton pump inhibitor for heartburn or GERD. Likewise, many pain medications raise your risk levels if you have heart disease or be dangerous if you have kidney disease.
If you take multiple drugs for multiple conditions, check with a doctor before treating your arthritis on your own, Dr. Burg recommends. Without proper guidance, adding more medications to the mix might do more harm than good.
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What Do Orthopedics Doctors Do
Orthopedists are specialists in the musculoskeletal system, including the bones, joints, muscles, ligaments, and connective tissues. These specialists are trained in diagnosing and treating bone and joint disease and injuries, which may involve orthopedic surgery. Your primary care provider is likely to refer you to an orthopedist if you have joint or musculoskeletal pain from a previous injury. A primary care provider may also refer you to an orthopedic surgeon if they suspect youll need surgical treatment to correct joint pain, such as a total knee or hip replacement. Orthopedists often treat conditions such as osteoarthritis , nerve pain, sports injuries, herniated discs, osteoporosis, and many other conditions. Although orthopedics involves surgical correction of many musculoskeletal problems, being referred to an orthopedic surgeon doesnt necessarily mean you will absolutely need surgery to correct your joint pain or injury.
What Should I Expect From Treatment
Sometimes providers prescribe a medication and schedule a follow-up appointment in three months, but different therapies take differing amounts of time to work. Patients should know when they can expect to see a benefit and what they can do to help control their symptoms in the meantime, Dr. Jayatilleke says. They should also ask what they should do if the therapy doesnt work as anticipated or if they have to stop the medication due to side effects: should they call, schedule another appointment, or wait until the scheduled follow-up? That way, people understand the expectations of how well things will work and how long it may take, as well as how to manage if things dont work well, so that they dont assume they have to wait months to make a change.
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What Are Some Red Flags To Watch Out For When Picking A Rheumatologist
Be wary of someone who doesnt look you in the eye eye contact is crucial, Ginsberg believes.
If the doctors head is buried in your chart or electronic health record during your appointment, thats a red flag. You want someone who relates to you, not your chart or lab results, he says.
Another major red flag is when doctors, nurses, or other members of the office staff dont respond to your phone calls.
What Does An Orthopedist Do
Orthopedists handle the disorders, injuries, prevention, treatment, and repair of the skeletal system and its related joints, ligaments, and muscles.
Orthopedists and orthopedic surgeons are specially trained in the diagnosis and treatment of bone and joint disease. They use an array of testing modalities to aid in diagnosis and treatment.
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Meditation Is A Seriously Powerful And Underused Treatment
Most autoimmune disorders react negatively to stress so learning how to manage your day-to-day stress is huge, Dr. Levitan says. In fact, one of the first prescriptions he gives his patients is to download a meditation app and start using it regularly. Personal time and positive self-talk are also important stress reducers, he adds.
What Role Will Physical Therapy And Exercise Play In Managing Symptoms
Some people are reluctant to increase physical activity due to fear of pain, while others are eager to exercise and do more. While generally we encourage people to be as active as possible, its useful to get an idea of whether there are any limitations on exercise or any precautions or signs that people should dial back on their activity, Dr. Jayatilleke adds. For some people, there are no specific limitations, but its good to understand if certain activities might be painful. For others, joint inflammation may limit activities short-term, but this may not be a lasting restriction. Finally, physical therapy and occupational therapy can be helpful for different symptoms, and people should ask about the utility and timing of these therapies as well.
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Can I Prevent Rheumatoid Arthritis
You cannot prevent rheumatoid arthritis because the cause of the disease is not known.
Quitting smoking, or never smoking, will reduce your risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis. You are more likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis if someone in your close family has it, but unfortunately there is no way to reduce this risk.
People who have rheumatoid arthritis often experience flare ups, which are times when their joints are particularly sore. Learning what triggers your flare ups can help reduce or prevent them.
For some people, stress can trigger a flare up, so can being run down or pushing yourself beyond your limits. Having an infection, missing a dose of your medicine or changing your treatment plan can also cause a flare up.
Keeping a food and activity diary may help work out your personal triggers but keep in mind that sometimes flare ups happen without any obvious cause.
Do I Need To Go To A Rheumatologist Or An Orthopedist
With so much overlap between medical disciplines and specializations, it is often difficult for an individual to discern which type of doctor to see for their problem.
This is especially true for orthopedics and rheumatology, as both of these types of physicians treat joint pain.
Orthopedists are surgeons who address bone and joint diseases and injuries, such as arthritis, osteoarthritis, and body trauma. Rheumatologists are internal medicine physicians who focus on autoimmune conditions and the non-surgical treatment of such diseases, such as arthritis, where medications and/or physical therapy can provide the proper treatment.
It is important to understand the areas these two specialties cover in order to make an informed decision.
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How Is Rheumatoid Arthritis Diagnosed
Your doctor will diagnose rheumatoid arthritis after asking questions about your symptoms and looking at your painful or swollen joints. It is likely your doctor will recommend blood tests, including checking your blood levels of antibodies called rheumatoid factor and anti-cyclic citrullinated peptide , as well as some markers of inflammation called erythrocyte sedimentation rate and C-reactive protein . A high result in any of these blood tests may suggest that you have rheumatoid arthritis.
Your doctor may also recommend x-rays or other scans to help make a diagnosis.
If your doctor thinks that you may have rheumatoid arthritis, they will refer you to a rheumatologist, who is a doctor that specialises in joints.
Starting treatment for rheumatoid arthritis as soon as possible is important as it reduces the chance that you will have serious symptoms later.
What Can I Do To Help
Rheumatologists are like detectives looking for clues to relieve your pain and treat your condition. To give your new doctor a head start:
Make a timeline. Go back as far as you can remember. Describe your symptoms and how they’ve changed over time.
Do some family research. What kinds of problems run in your family? Find out what you can about the health of your grandparents, parents, and any brothers and sisters.
List your meds. Your rheumatologist will need to know about every medication youâre taking:
- All your prescriptions for RA and other health problems
- Over-the-counter medicines, rub-on creams, and other pain relievers
- Vitamins, herbs, and supplements
You can write up a list or toss all the bottles in a bag and take them with you.
Ask your other doctors for copies of your records and any test results or X-rays, and take them with you, too.
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You Are Not Sure Of The Problem
Arthritis doctors care for many rare diseases that are hard to diagnose. They usually assume the role of a detective to assemble the pieces from a complex puzzle of symptoms and lab test results. Paying a visit to the rheumatologist early can help patients avoid the unnecessary waiting time before getting a diagnosis.
Does Arthritis Ever Go Away
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Exercise Doesnt Have To Hurt To Help
When it comes to all kinds of arthritis, exercise can feel like a catch-22. You need to stay active to help minimize stiffness and swelling, but thanks to RAs effects on your joints, the very exercises that can help you manage it can sometimes feel hard or even impossible to do.
But that doesnt mean you should give up on fitness. The trick, Dr. Levitan says, is to find a way to move your body that is manageable and, importantly, that makes you happy. No need to go hardcore but it is important to move every day.
With your doctors OK, you could start with 10-, 15- or 20-minute daily walks. Swimming or using an elliptical machine or recumbent bike at the gym are also easier on your joints. Gentle exercises like yoga can keep your joints limber and your muscles strong, he adds.
How Does My Diet Play A Role In Control Of Ra
I think diet is undervalued in many individuals with RA. Emerging research suggests our gut bacteria play an important role in disease risk and in symptoms, according to Dr. Smith. There have been positive studies noting the benefits of dietary changes, such as going vegan, on joint pain and overall disease activity. Additionally, western diets can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease and the risk of heart attack is increased in patients with RA.
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Why Go To A Hand Specialist For Arthritis
Painful and swollen hands are the first signs of arthritis. Arthritis can affect any part of your body, even the joints in your hands. It can make simple tasks like holding up a glass or mug, brushing your teeth, or turning a doorknob difficult.
While there is no cure for arthritis, you can manage symptoms and slow down the degeneration of your joints. Arthritis sufferers who get treatment and guidance from orthopedic doctors can live normal lives despite their condition.
An orthopedic hand specialist is trained and knowledgeable in various treatments that can ease the symptoms of arthritis in the hands and wrists. A hand specialist who is also a hand surgeon can perform surgical procedures that can help repair damaged joints and tendons in the hand due to arthritis.
Consider Learning More About Medical Marijuana
If you grew up in the just say no era, you might be hesitant to try this remedy, but it may help RA patients, says Jordan Tishler, MD, a Harvard-trained emergency medicine physician and founder of InhaleMD. There are certain types of cannabis specifically grown for medicinal purposes that might help treat the pain of RA pain, he says.
I have seen improvements for patients in pain control, stiffness, and increased mobility with cannabis, he says. Most importantly, I have seen significant improvement in reported quality of life., and according to a new Medscape poll, 80 percent of health care providers say it should legalized nationally.
If you are interested in trying cannabis and its legal in your state, talk to your doctor or another provider whos experienced in this area. There are many different strains of the plant, and cannabis products contain varying ratios of the active ingredients CBD to THC . Its important to remember that cannabis can interact with other medications you may take or affect other health conditions you have, so make sure to talk to your doctor before you explore this option.
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