Arthritis is a common, but not well understood, group of diseases and related conditions. Arthritis affects about 54 million American adults and 300,000 children and is the leading cause of disability in the US. Although anyone at any age can develop arthritis, it is most common among women and occurs more frequently as people age.
There are a few different types of arthritis, including degenerative arthritis, inflammatory arthritis, infectious arthritis, and metabolic arthritis. Arthritis can occur in any joint, but it most commonly affects the hands, wrists, elbows, shoulders, knees, ankles, feet, jaw, and neck.
Signs, Symptoms, and Causes for Arthritis
The common signs and symptoms for arthritis include:
- Swelling of the joint
- Stiffness of the joint
- Decreased range of motion in the joint
- In severe cases, inability to complete activities of daily living including walking and climbing stairs
Normal wear and tear on the connective tissue in the joints can lead to degenerative arthritis, and your risk of developing this may be higher if you have a family history of the disease. For inflammatory arthritis, the cause is an autoimmune reaction in which the immune system affects the synovium, a soft tissue that produces lubricating fluid for the joint. The exact reason why this occurs is not entirely understood.
Traditional Treatment Options for Arthritis
It’s important to know that there is no cure available for arthritis. However, when the joint symptoms of osteoarthritis are mild or moderate, they can usually be managed by practicing the following habits:
- balancing activity with rest
- using hot and cold therapies
- maintaining regular physical activity, which helps to keep the joints flexible
- managing a healthy weight to reduce the severity of symptoms
- strengthening the muscles around the joint for added support
- using assistive devices
- avoiding excessive repetitive movements
- prescription drugs
- eating a balanced diet, ideally featuring foods with anti-inflammatory properties
In some cases, arthritis can be visible–such as knobby finger joints–but more often the disease can only be seen via x-ray. Any family clinic near you in Arkansas can help you determine whether your joint pain is from arthritis or not.
Winter Tips for Arthritis Relief
When it comes to arthritis management in the winter, it can be difficult to determine how to be healthy while still being comfortable and productive. The drop in air pressure often exacerbates symptoms. Here are some winter management tips for arthritis pain relief to help you make it through the season:
Wear warm clothing. The cold seems to exacerbate the pain in aching joints, so one of your best defenses against the winter chill is to layer your clothing. You can wear tights or leggings underneath your pants and wear a few pairs of gloves to protect your hands and knees.
Stay hydrated. Dehydration can you make you feel pain more acutely, so drinking enough water each day should help to keep arthritis pain at bay.
Manage your weight. Although this is a tip you should keep in mind year-round, weight may be more of an issue during the winter months versus other months due to being more sedentary. Being overweight increases the pressure on your joints, which worsens pain. Losing even just 5% of your body weight can pay significant dividends for your arthritis health.
Exercise inside. Exercise is an essential part of life for everyone, including people with arthritis, but during the winter, you should take care to keep your exercise efforts indoors. Running or doing other activities outside when the ground is cold and hard can increase arthritis pain due to the impact when you land. A treadmill or elliptical are great indoor exercise options.
Take warm baths. Warm baths can soothe joint pain, but make sure to not to a cold environment when you are finished. Give your body a chance to normalize temperatures before shocking it with a change.
Supplement vitamin D. Vitamin D can be naturally acquired by the sun, but most people are unable to get enough from being outside – especially during the winter months. Being deficient in vitamin D can increase your risk for osteoporosis, which is a disease characterized by weak bones. Weak bones can decreases stability in the joints and increase the risk for further injury.
Supplement with fish oil. The two types of omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil are DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid). DHA and EPA can reduce inflammation, which causes swelling and pain in people with arthritis.
Wear supportive shoes. People with arthritis need to avoid further injury to their joints, and the winter season is prime time for falling. Wearing supportive shoes and being careful of ice while you walk can help to avoid slipping and suffering further injury.
Take an over-the-counter painkiller. If your joint pain worsens in colder weather, over the counter pain relievers such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or NSAID (aspirin) can help control the pain and manage any swelling that may be occurring.
Get a massage. Much of the pain coming from arthritis emanates from the joint and the muscles surrounding the joint. A massage can promote relaxation and increased blood flow in the area, which can help to reduce pain and swelling.
Try acupuncture. Acupuncture can be an effective arthritis management technique because it helps to release tension. The World Health Organization recommend it for more than 100 different health conditions.
Family Clinic in Arkansas for Arthritis Care
The primary goal of all treatment and management techniques is to manage the pain, optimize joint function, and prevent additional damage to the joints. You may need to experiment with the different methods to see what works best for you. Wondering how to be healthy all the time? An ARcare clinic near you in Arkansas can help connect you with a rheumatologist if you feel your arthritis symptoms are severe despite following these tips.