What is arthritis and how to manage it?

What is arthritis and how to manage it?

Arthritis is a condition to describes inflammation and pain in the joints. There are many different types of arthritis, but the most common ones are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

1. Osteoarthritis

It is a degenerative joint disease that occurs when the protective cartilage on the ends of bones wears down over time. It commonly affects weight-bearing joints like the knees, hips, and spine. Osteoarthritis is often associated with aging, joint overuse, and previous joint injuries.

2. Rheumatoid arthritis

It is an autoimmune disease that causes chronic inflammation in the joints. It occurs when the immune system mistakenly attacks the body’s own tissues, leading to joint pain, stiffness, and swelling. Rheumatoid arthritis can affect any joint in the body and may also cause systemic symptoms such as fatigue and fever.

Managing Arthritis

Arthritis can be managed with a combination of medical treatments, lifestyle modifications, and self-care strategies. Here are some general tips:

1. Medications

Depending on the type and severity of arthritis, your healthcare provider may prescribe medications to help manage pain, reduce inflammation, and slow down the progression of the disease. Common medications include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), analgesics, disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs). Corticosteroids can also prescribed as tablets or intra articular injections in severe cases. However, steroids should always be used under the supervision of the doctor. 

2. Physical therapy and exercise

Regular exercise and physical therapy can help strengthen the muscles around the affected joints, improve flexibility, and reduce pain. Low-impact activities such as walking, swimming, and cycling are generally recommended. Consult with a physical therapist or an exercise specialist to develop an appropriate exercise program for your specific condition.

3. Weight management

Maintaining a healthy weight is important because excess weight puts additional stress on weight-bearing joints, exacerbating arthritis symptoms. If you are overweight, losing weight can significantly reduce joint pain and improve mobility.

4. Assistive devices

Depending on the severity of arthritis, assistive devices such as braces, splints, canes, or walkers may be recommended to provide support, reduce joint strain, and improve mobility.

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5. Heat and cold therapy

Applying heat or cold to the affected joints can help alleviate pain and stiffness. Heat packs, warm baths, or showers can relax muscles and ease joint discomfort. Cold packs or ice wrapped in a towel can help reduce inflammation and numb the area.

6. Stress management

Stress can worsen arthritis symptoms. Engaging in relaxation techniques such as deep breathing exercises, meditation, or practicing mindfulness can help reduce stress and improve overall well-being.

7. Balanced diet

Please note that there is no special diet or dietary restrictions for arthritis. Eating a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats can help support overall joint health. Some studies suggest that certain foods like fatty fish (rich in omega-3 fatty acids), turmeric, ginger, and green tea may have anti-inflammatory properties.


Balanced Diet

It is important to work closely with your healthcare provider to develop an individualized management plan tailored to your specific type of arthritis and its severity. They can provide guidance on the best treatment options and lifestyle modifications to help manage your condition effectively.

The above article was authored by Dr. Nooruddin Sadruddin, FRCS Edin M.Sc. Orth UK

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