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Arthritis 101: Knowing the Main Causes, Treatments and Prevention

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Man suffering from joint pain in his lower back standing in a kitchen

More than 52 million Americans struggle with the pain caused by arthritis each year, and the cases of doctor-diagnosed arthritis are projected to reach 25 percent of American adults by the year 2030. Understanding this diseaseand its causes is the first step in knowing how to manage it and enjoy the best possible quality of life.

What is Arthritis?

Arthritis serves as the umbrella term for joint inflammation and comprises more than 100 diseases that affect the joints and their surrounding tissues. The most common symptoms and early signs of arthritis are typically experienced in the back, knees, hips and hands,and  the pain and stiffness from this disease ranges from mild to debilitating.

Close-up of an arthritic knee in a brace

Preventing Arthritis

Two key ways you can try to prevent arthritis are:

  • Stay Fit: Excess weight is one of the biggest factors that contributes to arthritis, so keep off extra weight through diet and moderate exercise. Every pound lost reduces four pounds of pressure on your knees, and even a modest 11-pound weight loss reduces the risk of developing knee osteoarthritis.
  • Minimize Repetitive Motions: Repetitive stress injuries also contribute to arthritis. Being mindful of ergonomics in the workplace and taking regular breaks to stretch and rest can prevent joint injuries that can lead to arthritis.

Two women briskly walking down a sidewalk

How to Address Your Arthritis Pain

Get Moving and Exercise: If you have arthritis you may typically experience pain in your joints that makes you want to avoid movement – but that’s precisely what will help you. It may seem counterintuitive, but moving more can help prevent pain. Exercise increases blood flow, improves flexibility and strengthens muscles. Arthritis sufferers should consult their doctors to develop an appropriate exercise routine that will gently work their joints, the main exhibitors of arthritis pain.

Besides exercise, another natural treatment for arthritis is using heat and cold to provide pain relief. A hot bath or heating pad can soothe sore muscles, while a cold compress or ice pack will numb sore joints and temporarily relieve pain and stiffness.

Treating Arthritis with Medication

Sometimes you need a little help to get moving, and medication can help. Arthritis treatment is intended to minimize pain and inflammation that may curtail further joint damage and increase your quality of life. Over-the-counter medications containing acetaminophen can be helpful – though only for osteoarthritis, not rheumatoid arthritis – as can prescription medications when necessary. Many doctors recommend acetaminophen over aspirin and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs).

In addition to exercise, physical therapy can also strengthen the joints and help manage and relieve arthritis pain; if all else fails, surgery is also a treatment option for some forms of arthritis.

 

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