Most of us experience joint pain in winter. Painful joints in the hands and legs make it difficult to carry out our daily chores and forget about enjoying the season. But it is a condition that can be controlled and managed through determination. Let us discuss arthritis pain in detail and how to manage this condition.
What is arthritis?
Arthritis is tenderness and swelling in one or more joints. Joint pain and swelling that worsens with age are common symptoms of arthritis.
What is are the types of arthritis?
Osteoarthritis: Before understanding osteoarthritis, we need to know about cartilage. Cartilage is an elastic tissue that covers the bony ends of the joints and prevents their breakdown. Osteoarthritis causes the disintegration of the joint cartilage.
Rheumatoid arthritis is a condition in which the immune system attacks the lining of the joints. Rheumatoid arthritis knee is one of the common types.
Gout is another form of arthritis that occurs due to higher levels of uric acid in the body leading to the formation of crystals in the joints.
Arthritis cure depends on the arthritis type. The arthritis treatments focus on reducing symptoms and improving quality of life.
Symptoms of arthritis
The signs and symptoms of arthritis depend on the involved joint and the type of arthritis. Some of the signs and symptoms of arthritis may include:
- Restriction in range of motion
Do osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis damage joints in similar ways?
The answer is no. Both affect joints in different ways.
Let us discuss how
It is the most common type of arthritis, leading to wear and tear of a joint’s cartilage. Cartilage protects the bony ends of the joint and helps in seamless joint motion. Osteoarthritis can damage the cartilage, which results in the bones grinding over one other, causing pain and restricted movement. The wear and tear can develop gradually over many years, or an injury or infection can accelerate the process.
Osteoarthritis not only can damage the cartilage but can also cause changes in the bones and connective tissues. These connective tissues hold the muscle and bones of the joint complex together. The cartilage damage may also cause swelling and inflammation of the joint lining.
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease. Here the body’s immune system damages the joint capsule lining. This lining, also called the synovial membrane, is a tough layer enclosing all the joints’ components. Rheumatoid arthritis can cause pain and swelling of the synovial membrane and may eventually lead to permanent damage of bone and cartilage inside the joint.
What are the most common risk factors for arthritis?
Some of the common risk factors for arthritis are:
- Family history:
Arthritis may run in generations. A person with a family history of arthritis is susceptible to some arthritis types.
Age may increase the risk of developing gout, osteoarthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis.
Women are more prone to develop rheumatoid arthritis. On the other hand, men are more likely to develop gout.
- History of joint injury:
People with a history of joint surgery or sports injury are more susceptible to developing arthritis of the injured joint in the future.
Excessive body weight can put pressure on your knees, hips, and spine joints, making them more prone to develop arthritis.
Arthritis in winter
The relationship between arthritis and cold weather is deep. Most of us feel the flaring of arthritis in winter. But why is arthritis worse in winter?
Our joints work best in moderate temperature conditions. When the weather becomes cold, the lubricating oil of our joints, the synovial fluid, becomes thick, thus making the joint movements less smooth. Therefore joint pain in winter may aggravate.
What are the complications of arthritis?
Painful joints in hands can make it difficult for you to perform your daily activities. Arthritis of the knees and hips can cause difficulty walking comfortably or even sitting straight.
Sometimes in severe cases, the joints may lose their shape and alignment.
How can your doctor diagnose arthritis?
Arthritis pain is one of the initial manifestations of this condition.
The doctor may start by asking about history and conducting physical examinations to look for signs of swelling, warmth, and redness. Your rheumatologist may also check the range of motions of the involved joint.
- Laboratory investigations:
Blood, urine, and synovial fluid examination can help your doctor pinpoint the type or cause of your arthritis pain. The doctor may insert a needle in the affected joint under local anesthesia to get the joint fluid sample.
- Radiological investigations:
Radiological tests can detect joints pain causes. Some of the imaging tests are:
X-rays use low radiation levels and help the doctor to understand the extent of bone and cartilage loss or the presence of bone spurs.
Please note that X-rays may not detect arthritic damage in the early stages, but they are an effective diagnostic aid to track the disease progression.
- Computerized tomography (CT):
CTs can give us a better visualization of the bone and the surrounding soft tissues and helps in formulating the best treatment plan.
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI):
MRI combines radio waves with the magnetic field to produce more detailed imaging of cartilage, ligament, and tendons.
This imaging technology uses high-frequency sound waves to visualize cartilage, soft tissues, and fluid-containing structures near the joints.
Ultrasound is an aid to guide the needle for removing synovial fluid or injecting medications into the affected joint.
Arthritis cure. Is it a myth?
There is no definitive arthritis cure. Once the damage happens, no treatment modality can reverse it. The focus of any arthritis treatment is to relieve arthritis pain and swelling and improve joint mobility.
Rheumatologists in India often prescribe a combination of treatments to see what works best for you.
The doctors may prescribe medicines based on the type of arthritis. Some of the common medications prescribed for arthritis are:
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
NSAIDs can provide rapid arthritis pain relief and reduces inflammation. Some common NSAIDs are ibuprofen and naproxen sodium. NSAIDs are available as tablets for oral use or as creams, sprays, and gels for topical use.
Take these medicines (tablet form) as per your doctor’s advice since they may cause gastric upset and risk of stroke or heart attack.
They can reduce pain by interfering with pain signals transmitted from joints. Some of the common examples are sprays and ointments containing menthol or capsaicin.
Corticosteroids can provide arthritis pain relief, reduce swelling, and slow down the rate of joint damage. The doctors may give them as pills or directly inject them into the affected site.
- Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs)
They can reduce the rate of progression of rheumatoid arthritis knee and other joints and prevent joint complex from permanent damage.
These drugs may increase your risk of infection.
Physiotherapy for arthritis
It is effective against painful joints in hands, feet, and other body parts. Whether it is a rheumatoid arthritis knee or any arthritis type, physiotherapy can reduce the symptoms by improving the range of motion and strengthening the surrounding muscles.
Your doctor may prescribe surgery only if you do not respond to conservative treatment.
The surgical interventions are:
- Joint repair:
Sometimes the doctor may smooth or realign the joint surface to reduce symptoms and improve the range of function.
- Joint replacement:
The surgeon removes the damaged joint and replaces it with an implant or artificial joint. The most common joint replacement procedures are hip and knee replacement procedures.
- Joint fusion:
Your doctor may recommend this procedure for smaller joints like fingers, wrists, and ankles. Here the doctor removes the bony ends of the joint and locks the new ends together until they fuse into a single bone.
Are there any lifestyle or home remedies for arthritis?
Yes, there are. The beauty of these remedies is their universality. Whether you are looking at them as a treatment for arthritis in the knees or other joints pain cause, they are effective against all.
Some of the lifestyle or home remedies for arthritis are:
- Manage healthy body weight
Excess body weight can put extra pressure on our weight-bearing joints, thus making them susceptible to arthritis.
Regular exercise can improve joint function and the strength of the muscles surrounding them. You do not need to hit a gym every time. Fun activities like swimming, running, cycling, or running can also do the trick.
- Heat and cold packs
Both heating pads and ice packs can relieve arthritis pain and other symptoms.
- Supportive measures
Do not feel ashamed of using assistive devices like:
- Shoe inserts
They can protect your joints from further damage and improve your efficiency in performing daily tasks.
The treatment for arthritis in knees or any other joint is one of the most searched queries across the globe. Why is arthritis worse in winter? What is the relationship between arthritis and cold weather? These are some of the trending topics in winter. But still, many of us do not know about the causes, types, and risk factors of arthritis. When we start researching the answers, it is often too late. We should begin our fight against arthritis by knowing the disease and adopting healthy lifestyle habits. Remember, the treatment is not there but definitely the prevention is.