What Symptoms Look And Feel Like And What To Do If You Can’t Shake The Ache
by Michelle Crouch, AARP, Updated December 20, 2021
En español |It’s not unusual to experience pain in your joints on occasion, especially if you’re active and participate in high-impact activities such as running. That unwanted ouch can be caused by injured muscles, tendons and ligaments around the joint or by tendonitis, a sprain or a strain.
But if you start experiencing aching, pain and stiffness on a routine basis and particularly if the pain is right at the joint you may be developing arthritis, says rheumatologist Uzma Haque, M.D., codirector of clinical operations at the Johns Hopkins Arthritis Center in Baltimore.
Your risk of arthritis increases as you age, and its a leading cause of disability in the U.S., affecting around 58.5 million people, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention .
Other Health Risks Linked To Arthritis
Arthritis is closely linked to other health conditions, particularly heart disease and diabetes. As many as 57 percent of adults diagnosed with heart disease also have arthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis is actually considered a heart disease risk factor. Half of all those with diabetes will also develop arthritis.
So how can you keep all of those health problems in check to stay as healthy as possible? The answer should come as no surprise: exercising and maintaining a healthy body weight.
Although admittedly arthritis can make exercise more painful and difficult at first, regular exercise is one of the best remedies to ease arthritis pain and keep heart disease and diabetes under control, a must for better overall health.
Don’t rely solely on arthritis medications to make yourself feel better. Take control of your arthritis and your pain, and you’ll soon find yourself in control of your life again.
Tips For Managing An Arthritis Flare
Use these tips to manage arthritis flares when they arise.
1. Tips for Managing an Arthritis Flare
2. Plan ahead with your rheumatologist.
3. Plan ahead at home, too.
4. Watch the signs
5. Guard against infection
6. Give it a rest.
7. Care for your emotions
8. Slow down dont stop.
9. Apply the heat and the chill.
10. Exercise your mind.
11. Ask for help.
12. Practice good sleep hygiene
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Rethink How You Push The Pedal To Ease Foot Pain
If your feet and ankles are stiff, move your seat forward so youre pushing the pedals with your entire foot, not just your toes. Also, make sure the seat is at a height that lets you have control of the pedals without being uncomfortable or putting pressure on your feet and ankles. If your car has it, adaptive cruise control automatically adjusts speed on the highway to maintain a safe distance from the car ahead. It also alleviates the worry about discomfort and fatigue from pushing your foot on the pedal for long periods of time.
Shoulder Arthritis Due To Avascular Necrosis
Avascular necrosis refers to the disrupted blood supply to an area of the body, which results in that area dying . In the shoulder, the humeral head may lose blood supply due to disease, traumatic injuries, and other causes. Without a blood supply, the bone will slowly collapse, becoming uneven and causing arthritis.
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Add Natural Supplements To Your Diet
A number of supplements, vitamins, and minerals may help reduce inflammation and arthritis pain. Vitamins A, B, C, D, E, and K, as well as minerals like zinc, calcium, iron, and magnesium, all play important roles in overall health.
Some people with arthritis find capsaicin, turmeric, and a variety of other supplements can improve arthritis symptoms. Talk to your health care team to find out which supplements might be a good addition to your arthritis management plan.
Exercise For Arthritis In The Neck
If youre experiencing neck pain due to arthritis, your doctor may recommend physical therapy. Physical therapy for neck arthritis entails doing specific exercises to help strengthen and stretch weak or strained muscles. Physical therapy can improve range of motion. Sessions and programs vary in length and frequency and are tailored to your condition.
The foundation of what were trying to do in physical therapy for the neck is often to help improve posture and the way people move, says Dr. Milani. Exercises in physical therapy tend to be focused on strengthening muscles of the back and neck, which puts less strain on structures of the cervical spine.
Youll do exercises during physical therapy and get instructions on ones to do at home.
Regular Physical Activity at Home
You may feel like you dont want to move when your neck hurts. But being inactive may increase stiffness, which can cause you to lose even more mobility. Aches and pains tend to respond better to continued movement than rest, says Dr. Milani. Exercise is often the foundation of treatment.
Exercises that involve stretching, strengthening, and improving range of motion can help reduce pain and keep your neck limber. You want to move gently and smoothly when doing neck exercises, not jerk your neck or make sudden movements. You may feel discomfort at first. Stop if any exercise increases your neck pain.
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What Causes Arthritis Of The Knee
Experts have identified some genes that might cause arthritis, including arthritis of the knee. They predict that there are more genes not yet discovered. You could have a gene linked to arthritis without knowing it and a virus or injury could trigger arthritis of the knee.
Though the cause is unknown, some risk factors increase the possibility of arthritis of the knee. Risk factors of osteoarthritis, specifically, include:
- Age. Osteoarthritis happens to older adults more often than younger adults and children.
- Bone anomalies. Youre at a higher risk for osteoarthritis if your bones or joints are naturally crooked.
- Gout. Gout, also a type of inflammatory arthritis, might lead to osteoarthritis.
- Injuries. Knee injuries can cause arthritis of the knee.
- Stress. A lot of stress on your knees from jogging, playing sports or working an active job can lead to osteoarthritis of the knee.
- Weight. Extra weight puts more pressure on your knees.
What To Do If You Have Arthritis Part One
Arthritis is a common term for inflammation of joints, however many diseases can cause arthritis. Causes of arthritis can range from osteoarthritis, which is caused by deterioration of the cartilage that usually protects the bones from rubbing against each other, to rheumatoid arthritis, which is an autoimmune disorder where the body’s immune system is overactive and attacking normal tissues. Most importantly, arthritis may be a sign of other systemic inflammatory processes,which can form the basis for other chronic diseases.
Each form of arthritis may have common causes or unique needs to be addressed. Causes include injury , metabolic abnormalities in which the body does not process normal constituents properly , hereditary factors and infections. Arthritis can be caused by tick bites, such as in Lyme’s disease. It can be caused by a diet high in animal fats or other foods which increase inflammation systemically.
Testing your body will give you the clues you need in solving the mystery of arthritis.The first step in understanding arthritis is finding out what specific type of arthritis you have. This can be done through several diagnostic tests which differentiate the causes and will help to develop a course of treatment. The common diagnostic tests for arthritis include:
Antinuclear Antibodies : This profile helps look for diseases such as Sjögren’s syndrome, lupus, polymyostitis, and scleroderma which can be sources of arthritic pain.
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Lifestyle Changes To Manage Arthritis Pain
What you do or don’t do every day can have a major impact on your joints and the level of arthritis pain you experience.
How you live affects your health its as simple as that. Your lifestyle choices affect all aspects of your physical well-being, and that includes your joints especially if you have arthritis.
What Can I Do
The good news is that there are many simple things you can do to live well with arthritis:
- find out what type of arthritis is affecting you and learn about your treatment options
- stay active: keep your joints moving and your muscles strong
- learn ways to manage pain: there are many things you can do to help you cope with pain
- manage tiredness: learn to balance rest and your normal activities
- keep to a healthy weight: there is no diet that can cure arthritis but a well balanced diet is best for your general health
- look after and protect your joints: find out about equipment and gadgets that can make tasks easier
- acknowledge your feelings and seek support: as there is currently no cure for arthritis it is natural to feel scared, frustrated, sad and sometimes angry. Be aware of these feelings and get help if they start affecting your daily life.
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Osteoarthritis Of The Spine
Osteoarthritis is the most common form of spinal arthritis. It usually affects the lower back and develops through wear and tear. As the cartilage between the joints slowly breaks down, it leads to inflammation and pain. Because the pain is from mechanical damage, it is typically more noticeable when you bend or twist your back. Past back injuries may also contribute to the development of degenerative arthritis of the spine.
Osteoarthritis of the spine usually affects the facet joints between the vertebrae. It is also known as facet joint arthritis, facet joint syndrome and facet disease. In some cases, degeneration of the spinal discs may contribute to facet joint arthritis. As discs between the vertebrae become thinner, more pressure is transferred to the facet joints. This leads to more friction and more damage to the cartilage.
When these degenerative changes occur in the neck, this condition is called cervical spondylosis. Arthritis in the neck doesnt always cause pain, and many people have no noticeable symptoms.
Arthritis: A Common Culprit
One in every five American adults have doctor-diagnosed arthritis. And in more than 30% of those diagnosed cases, the patient reported having pain significant enough to limit their lifestyle, daily activities, and even their work.
If youre experiencing joint pain and are wondering if you may be among these statistics, youre probably beginning to wonder: how do I know if I have arthritis?
Arthritis is characterized by inflammation within a joint, but the reason for the inflammation can vary. Below weve provided a breakdown of how the major forms of arthritis occur in the body and how they present themselves with specific symptoms.
Heres your guide to answering the question…
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How Does Shoulder Arthritis Develop
Shoulder arthritis usually results from gradual wear and tear of the cartilage. Cartilage is present in every joint in the body it covers the surface of the bones inside the joints similar to Teflon on a ball bearing. Cartilage is a living tissue 2 millimeters to 3 millimeters thick about the thickness of one or two layers of cardboard. This makes the contact between bones softer. If the cartilage is intact, it can take multiple rotations with no wear of the surface because its smooth.
Shoulder arthritis typically develops in stages. First the cartilage gets soft , then it develops cracks in the surface , then it begins to fibrillate , and finally it wears away to expose the surface of the bone . As a result, it loses its ability to act as a smooth, gliding surface.
The cartilage doesnt wear away all at once over the entire surface of the bone in a joint. Instead, it wears at different rates in different parts. So if you consider the surface of a ball bearing that was covered with Teflon, this type of wear would be as if the Teflon had pits and the surface would now be irregular .
Once the surface becomes irregular, the cartilage may undergo further damage. It may begin to thin out, eventually leading to the bones of the shoulder rubbing against each other . Many people think that arthritis is bone-on-bone traction in the joint, but in reality arthritis is the process that can lead to the bone-on-bone traction.
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Arthritis Risks And Complications That May Develop
In most cases, arthritis cannot be cured and the disease will continue to progress. Even with the best of treatment, arthritis of the foot and ankle may continue to cause you pain or require you to limit your activities.
Severe disability from arthritis is rare, however, and usually seen in persons with rheumatoid arthritis.
Frequent use of anti-inflammatory medications is known to cause gastrointestinal upset. People with rheumatoid arthritis are at higher risk for complications, such as peripheral neuropathy, infection, and skin or muscle problems.
Strategize The Timing Of Ra Medication
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs can help reduce the pain and stiffness of RA, but some NSAIDs have a short half-life, meaning the body can absorb or use the drug fairly quickly. If you take medications that have a short half-life, take them before you get in the car for a trip, says Vinicius Domingues, MD, a rheumatologist in private practice in Daytona Beach, Florida, and a medical advisor to the digital arthritis group CreakyJoints.
Should any of your medication make you sleepy, dont take it before driving, the Department of Transportation warns.
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What Is Shoulder Arthritis
Shoulder arthritis is damage to the cartilage inside the shoulder joint. The shoulder has two joints. Shoulder arthritis commonly refers to the bigger ball-and-socket joint named the glenohumeral joint after the bones it connects . The cartilage covers both the ball and the socket .
When the cartilage in the shoulder begins to break down on the surface and eventually in the deeper layers, its called shoulder arthritis. The second joint in the shoulder, the acromioclavicular or AC joint, can also develop arthritis known as AC joint arthritis.
How Neck Arthritis Is Diagnosed
Your doctor will start by taking a history and doing a physical exam. Theyll check the range of motion in your neck and test your strength, sensation, and reflexes to find out if there is pressure on your nerves or spinal cord. Theyll ask when your symptoms started, when the pain happens, and what makes the pain better and worse.
Your doctor may order an X-ray to assess alignment and look for arthritic changes, says Dr. Shah. If there is a concern of compression of spinal nerves or the spinal cord, you may need an MRI to look at the neutral structure and discs, says Dr. Shah.
A CT scan may be ordered to look at the bone more closely, especially to see if any bony outgrowths are causing compression. However, X-rays and MRIs are the tests that are usually ordered, says Dr. Shah. A CT scan with a myelogram may be used if an MRI cant be done.
An electromyography, or EMG, may be ordered to assess for nerve compression, says Dr. Shah. An EMG tests the electrical conduction of the nerves in the arms. This test would be helpful if you have multiple nerves being compressed or compression of nerves at the neck and in the arm, he says.
Your doctor may order blood tests to see if you have any antibodies or systemic inflammation that would reveal inflammatory arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, or ankylosing spondylitis.
Medication Options For Neck Arthritis
Analgesic and NSAID pain medication
Over-the-counter medications can be used to help address pain, inflammation, and swelling. NSAIDs like aspirin, naproxen, and ibuprofen can help relieve pain and reduce inflammation. Analgesics can help with mild to moderate pain. Your doctor can prescribe a stronger anti-inflammatory if OTC medications dont provide relief.
Even though many commonly used NSAIDs are available over the counter, its important to talk to your doctor about side effects and drug interactions. NSAIDs can have significant side effects, including gastrointestinal complications, and are associated with an increased risk of heart disease.
Disease-modifying arthritis medication
Neck pain due to inflammatory arthritis is typically treated with a disease-modifying antirheumatic drug , such as methotrexate for RA. Other conventional DMARDs include leflunomide, hydroxychloroquine, and sulfasalazine. Biologics are a newer type of DMARD that target specific immune system pathways. DMARDs help to reduce the immune system activity that is triggering inflammation and pain.
Steroid injections and nerve blocks
An epidural steroid injection is where doctors inject medicine directly into the epidural space of the spinal canal surrounding the nerve roots. The medicine is a combination of corticosteroids and a local anesthetic, which together reduce inflammation and relieve pain.
The anesthesia offers temporary pain relief and the corticosteroids reduce inflammation in the joint.
How Can I Find Out If I Have Arthritis
See your doctor as soon as possible if you have symptoms of arthritis. Your doctor will ask you about your symptoms and examine your joints. They may do some tests or x-rays, but these can be normal in the early stages of arthritis. It may take several visits before your doctor can tell what type of arthritis you have. This is because some types of arthritis can be hard to diagnose in the early stages. Your doctor may also send you to a rheumatologist, a doctor who specialises in arthritis, for more tests.
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