People will often see joint pain as a normal part of aging. However, this is not always the case. In fact, many people will go on to develop arthritis over the course of their lives. Arthritis affects every patient differently, but the overarching symptom for each patient is inflammation of joints. There are more than a 100 different subtype of arthritis, each of which has its own unique characteristics.
So how do you know if your joint pain is related to arthritis? There are four major factors that are pervasive in all patients with arthritis and can help you decide whether you should seek help for your symptoms:
- Joint Pain. Joint pain associated with arthritis is unique in that it doesn’t have a specific pattern. In some patients, the pain comes and goes while in others, it's constant. Additionally, patients can either experience pain when they are resting or when they are moving. Pain is also not limited to one region of the body and can move. Therefore, pain in arthritis can vary quite a bit in its presentation.
- Joint swelling. Inflammation of joints leads to their swelling as well, which is in turn a hallmark of arthritis. In fact, if you have swelling of a joint and it persists for more than three days or strikes as frequently as 3 threeimes a month then there is good chance you have arthritis and should make a doctor’s appointment.
- Joint stiffness. One of the first things patients experience when they first get arthritis is stiffness in the joints. This is a particularly prominent feature when patients wake up in the morning or after a long period of inactivity. If you feel joint stiffness in the morning, you like have a subtype of arthritis.
- Difficult moving or less flexibility moving a joint. If you are experiencing problems moving a joint, then it is time to call a doctor.
Pain in arthritis: How does it hurt?
Pain is one of the most prominent symptoms of arthritis and it is a serious problem as it affects various parts of your life. It is not just the physical aspect but pain also affects the people around you, it affects your ability to work and it significantly worsens your quality of life.
Chronic pain is common in adults, and there are ways to help it. However, the first step is to go see a doctor, particularly if there is a chance you have arthritis. These are the four types of arthritis that commonly cause pain in patients:
1. Osteoarthritis or degenerative joint disease
This is the most common types of arthritis in patients over the age of 50. Osteoarthritis can develop in almost any joint of the body, including the fingers, hips, knees, and spine. Osteoarthritis, which is often referred to as “wear and tear” disease develops because as we get older, there is a cushioning in our joints called cartilage which begins to wear off. This causes our joints to become stiff and lose their elasticity. This also makes the joints more prone to damage. As the cartilage continues to deteriorate, the tendons and ligaments stretch, leading to the development of pain. Symptoms of osteoarthritis include:
- Joint ache
- Joint pain
- Bone growth in finger joints
- Soreness in joint
2. Rheumatoid arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis, another common type of arthritis, is very different from osteoarthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis develops in joints present on both sides of the body, which helps distinguish this subtype from others. While the cause of rheumatoid arthritis is not known, researchers do know that it is an autoimmune disease, which means that it develops as the result of the body’s immune system attacking its own tissue. Rheumatoid arthritis is associated with early death, though early diagnosis and treatment can help maintain function and prevent or slow down progression. The symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis are similar to those encountered by those with osteoarthritis including:
- Joint pain
- Joint swelling
- Joint stiffness
3. Polymyalgia rheumatica
Less common, Polymyalgia rheumatica is a type of arthritis that involves the large joints of the body such as hip and shoulders. Similar to rheumatoid arthritis, Polymyalgia rheumatica is an autoimmune disease. Polymyalgia Rheumatica is most commonly diagnosed in patients of Scandinavian or Northern European descent. These are the symptoms associated with Polymyalgia Rheumatica:
- Joint pain and stiff in shoulder and hip
- Weight loss
Fibromyalgia is another type of arthritic disorder that leads to pain and tenderness in numerous regions in the body, leading to sleep issues and fatigue. Researchers do not yet know or understand the case of fibromyalgia. Unfortunately, there is no cure for fibromyalgia, but there are treatments you can take to help manage the pain.
These are treatments that can help relieve pain associated with arthritis:
- Anti-inflammatory medicines such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) which include ibuprofen (Advil) and acetaminophen (Tylenol)
- Antidepressants, which can help improve sleep if taken before bed
- Disease modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs) which prevent progression of disease, and therefore, can stop further development of pain
- Alternative supplements
- Lifestyle changes such as weight loss, exercise (40 minutes at a time, 3 to 4 days a week), reduction in stress, wearing correct footwear and quitting smoking