Arthritis hardly needs a national month of awareness to make itself widely known. One in four American adults currently live with it. That’s 58.5 million people, not counting children who suffer from the juvenile rheumatoid version. And as the average American grows older, the number of adults who have arthritis is expected to rise to 67 million by the end of 2030.
The discomfort and loss of mobility caused by symptoms have a severe impact on quality of life. They are the leading cause of disability. Ten percent of adults limit the kinds of activities they participate in because of it. More than half of Americans who have arthritis are between the ages of 18 and 64. In addition to medical spending, lost wages resulting from arthritis cost us over $303 billion every year.
What Is Arthritis?
The word “arthritis” is derived from two Greek words: arthro-, meaning “joint,” and -itis, meaning “inflammation.” While over 100 types of it and related conditions are known to exist, diagnosis of arthritis is relatively straightforward: swelling and tenderness of more than one joints in the body. Symptoms also include stiffness and joint pain, and typically worsen as the patient grows older.
Arthritis commonly occurs in one of three forms:
- Osteoarthritis – Results from atrophy of articular cartilage, the tissue which prevents bones from rubbing together
- Rheumatoid arthritis – Results from a chronic inflammatory disorder that causes the immune system to attack the body’s own connective tissues
- Psoriatic arthritis – Affects the joints, ligaments and tendons of people who are suffering from psoriasis
Approximately 10 to 20 percent of people living with fibromyalgia also experience arthritis. Gout, a disease which may cause deposits of uric acid crystals to accumulate within the joints, often includes arthritis as a secondary symptom as well.
Who Can Get It?
Everyone is at risk of developing arthritis regardless of age, race or sex. That said, several factors have been identified which carry an increased risk of developing arthritis. These include:
- Overweight and obesity – Just 10 extra pounds of excess body weight put an additional 15 to 50 pounds of pressure on the knees. This accelerates the decay of articular cartilage, which carries a heightened risk of developing osteoarthritis.
- Infection – Infectious arthritis can be result from exposure to bacteria such as staphylococcus, as well as certain viruses and fungi. If you experience sudden swelling and discomfort in one or more joints, it is crucial to see a doctor immediately.
- Joint injury – Repetitive strain injury may weaken articular cartilage to a point where it ceases to function properly, thus causing osteoarthritis.
- Smoking – Tobacco use is associated with higher levels of inflammatory proteins in the body. These may cause the immune system to damage the body’s own cartilage, a symptom characteristic of rheumatoid arthritis.
What Treatments Are Available for Arthritis?
There is no known cure for it, although people who are living with the condition can do many things to potentially reduce their symptoms.
Making one or more significant lifestyle changes may promote better joint health and minimize discomfort. A diet rich in foods which possess anti-inflammatory properties can help, as can one which includes fatty fish and turmeric. Any diet which helps to maintain low body weight will also help to reduce the amount of stress placed on the body’s joints, especially the knees.
Contrary to popular belief, exercise does not exacerbate the symptoms. The right exercise program will strengthen muscles to maintain and enhance flexibility as well as reduce the amounts of pressure placed on surrounding joints. In addition to physical exercise, yoga, meditation and other mindfulness exercises may help to reduce the perception of pain.
People suffering from severe arthritis may opt for surgery. Invasive procedures such as arthroscopy, osteotomy, knee replacement, synovectomy and arthrodesis may reduce joint pain, improve joint function and prevent additional joint damage, although they come with drawbacks including lengthy recovery periods and potential infection.
Several medications are also prescribed to treat arthritis including nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), corticosteroids and disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs). The efficacy of such medications depend heavily on a patient’s unique physical condition. Adverse side effects from arthritis medications are also not uncommon.
People living with arthritis commonly seek chiropractic treatment for their condition. In addition to low-velocity joint and spinal manipulation, a chiropractor may treatment with therapies such as ultrasound, electrotherapy, cold laser and infrared sauna. Chiropractic treatment may not be suitable for those suffering from severe and acute arthritis symptoms, although it is widely considered to be safe for milder conditions.
The Calhoun Spine & Wellness Center in Calhoun, GA offers fitness, meditation, nutrition and chiropractic services which may dramatically lessen the painful swelling and tenderness common to many conditions, including arthritis. If you would like to know more about how our passionate team can help you live your best life, then we welcome you to schedule an appointment at our clinic today!