What is arthritis?
Arthritis is the name given to a group of over 100 disorders that affect your joints and often other areas of your body too.
Arthritis usually causes inflammation in one or more of your joints and sometimes other tissues in your body. This inflammation can result in swelling, stiffness, a decreased range of motion, heat, tenderness, pain, and sometimes joint damage. Because arthritis causes inflammation in your joints it’s often called a rheumatic condition or disease (rheumatic conditions cause inflammation that affects the connecting or supporting structures of the body).
Which joints are affected usually depends on what type of arthritis you have, but joints in your fingers, toes, wrists, feet, ankles, and knees are most commonly associated with arthritis.
It’s estimated that around 22.7% of American adults have been diagnosed with at least one form of arthritis, with more women (23.5%) having it than men (18.1%). Arthritis becomes more common as you age, with an estimated 49.6% of Americans aged 65 and over-diagnosed with arthritis.
The most common type of arthritis in the US is osteoarthritis, with rheumatoid arthritis, gout, and fibromyalgia also common.
Some types of arthritis can be cured, but the majority can’t. The goal of most arthritis treatment is to make it easier to live with arthritis by easing the symptoms and reducing any damage caused.
What causes arthritis?
There’s no single cause of arthritis as there are over 100 different types and they can be brought on by different causes.
Many forms of arthritis have a degree of inheritance, meaning you’re more likely to develop them if a close family member has the condition. Your genetics may make you susceptible to develop an arthritic condition, but other factors are often involved too, including:
- Immune system problems
- Metabolism disorders
- Joint injuries, both acute and wear-and-tear injuries
- Infections and other diseases
- Lifestyle – smoking, a lack of exercise, and even what you eat, and drink may make arthritis more likely or make it worse
Arthritis risk factors
Certain risk factors make it more likely you’ll develop a form of arthritis. Some of these you can influence, others are beyond your control.
Arthritis risk factors you can’t influence include:
- Aging – your chances of developing some of the most common forms of arthritis rise as you age, including osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and gout.
- Genetics – you’re more likely to develop some types of arthritis if a close family member has it, such as osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus, and ankylosing spondylitis.
- Gender – women are generally more likely to develop arthritis, particularly rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, scleroderma, and lupus. Men are more likely to develop gout and spondyloarthropathies.
- Ethnicity – you’re more likely to develop some forms of arthritis if you have ancestry from certain ethnic groups. African Americans, Hispanics, Pacific islanders, and Chinese Americans are more likely to develop Lupus, whereas Native Americans are more likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis.
Arthritis risk factors you can influence include:
- Obesity – excess weight puts extra stress on joints and can cause damage over time, increasing your risk of a range of types of arthritis.
- Joint injuries – you’re more likely to develop arthritis in joints you’ve previously injured.
- Occupation – jobs that involve lots of repetitive movements, like bending over, squatting, and bending your knees, can increase your risk of arthritis.
- Infections – some infectious diseases can affect your joints and trigger arthritis.
- Diet – certain foods can increase your chances of developing arthritis, like alcohol, sugary foods, and animal products
- Smoking – smokers have higher rates of arthritis than non-smokers.
- Sedentary lifestyle – although wear and tear and injuries can damage joints and make arthritis more likely, you’re also more at risk of developing arthritis if you have a sedentary lifestyle and get a little exercise.
Types of arthritis
There are over 100 recognized different types of arthritis, but most of them can be grouped into the following categories:
- Autoimmune arthritis – caused by your immune system mistakenly attacking and causing inflammation in your joints, like rheumatoid arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis.
- Degenerative arthritis – caused by the gradual or sudden loss of protective cartilage in your joints, like osteoarthritis.
- Connective tissue diseases – caused by inflammation in your connective tissues like tendons, ligaments, and cartilage. Examples include lupus and scleroderma.
- Metabolic arthritis – caused by problems with how your body breaks down and uses what you eat and drink, like too much uric acid in your blood causing gout.
- Infectious arthritis – arthritis triggered by infections entering your joints.
Some of the most common forms of arthritis include:
What is rheumatoid arthritis?
Rheumatoid arthritis is one of the most common types of arthritis affecting nearly 1% of adults in the developed world. It occurs when a type of soft tissue that lines joints, called the synovium, becomes inflamed, damaging the joint.
Rheumatoid arthritis causes
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder caused by the immune system mistakenly attacking the synovium tissue in joints. This causes the synovium to become inflamed, which increases pressure in the joint, damaging (eroding) the underlying cartilage and bone over time.
It’s not fully understood what triggers your immune system to target your synovium. Genetics plays a role, and it’s likely your genes make you susceptible to developing rheumatoid arthritis, but that it may be triggered by events in your life and your lifestyle.
Rheumatoid arthritis symptoms
Rheumatoid arthritis can affect any joint in your body, but it’s most common in fingers, wrists, elbows, and knees. It’s usually symmetrical, affecting the opposite joints on the other side of the body equally. Rheumatoid arthritis can cause:
- Stiff joints
- Warm joints
- Swollen joints
- Painful joints
- Reduced range of motion
- Lasting damage and joint deformation over time
Rheumatoid arthritis can also affect other parts of your body. It can cause inflammation and other symptoms in your skin, lungs, blood and blood vessels, heart, and eyes, and more.
Rheumatoid arthritis diagnosis
Rheumatoid arthritis is usually diagnosed through an examination of the symptoms and the affected joints. X-rays may be used, and blood tests can also be performed to look for markers of inflammation, like C-reactive proteins. Laboratory tests may also be used to rule out other conditions that could cause similar symptoms.
What is osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis, affecting an estimated 3.3% of the world’s population. It’s caused by wear and tear on joints that damages cartilage over time.
Cartilage is a smooth, slippery material that coats the ends of bones in your joints. As it becomes damaged, the bones can’t move against each other smoothly in the joint; they rub and stick and grind against each other. This causes pain, reduces mobility, and damages the joint more over time, eventually causing damage to the bone beneath the cartilage.
What causes osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis can be caused by daily wear and tear on the joint that creates small amounts of damage that build up over time. This can be made worse if more strain is put on joints, such as from being overweight, performing the same action repeatedly, or having problems like one leg being longer than the other.
Osteoarthritis can also be brought on by injuries that damage joints. In some people, osteoarthritis can result from both an injury to the joint and wear and tear over time.
Osteoarthritis can affect all or any joints but is most common in the fingers, knees, hips, the lower back, and the neck. It can cause:
- Stiff joints
- Swollen joints
- Painful joints
- Reduced range of motion in joints
- Deformation of joints over time
Osteoarthritis symptoms are often worse in the morning or after resting. Symptoms usually come on gradually as the joint damage occurs, but can become more severe over time as joint damage progresses, and can become debilitating.
Osteoarthritis vs rheumatoid arthritis
The main difference between these two common forms of arthritis is that rheumatoid arthritis is brought on by an underlying immune system problem that causes inflammation in joints, whereas there’s no underlying condition behind osteoarthritis, just gradual damage over time. Because of this, the main risk factor of osteoarthritis is age; your joints are simply more likely to accumulate gradual damage the longer you’ve been using them.
Osteoarthritis is usually diagnosed by a clinical examination, a review of the patient’s history, and imaging tests (usually X-rays), to examine the structure of the affected joints.
What is inflammatory arthritis?
Inflammatory arthritis is a group of arthritis conditions caused by inflammation in your joints. Inflammation is a natural process your immune system triggers to help kill infections and repair damage to your body.
But sometimes your immune system can mistakenly target healthy tissues and cause inflammation. And whilst short-term inflammation is usually good for you, if it lasts for a long time in healthy tissue, it can cause problems and damage. Inflammation in your joints can put pressure on them, causing damage to soft tissues and bone over time.
Types of inflammatory arthritis
Many of the most common forms of arthritis, and some of the less common ones, are inflammatory, these include:
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Psoriatic arthritis
- Ankylosing spondylitis
- Systemic lupus erythematosus
Inflammatory arthritis symptoms
Inflammation can occur in any joint in your body. Sometimes it occurs on just one side of your body, other times it’s symmetrical, affecting joints on both sides of the body equally. Inflammatory arthritis typically causes:
- Swollen joints
- Joint pain
- Joint stiffness
- Joints to feel warm or tender to the touch
- Reduced range of motion
- Damage and joint deformation over time
Inflammatory arthritis diagnosis
Diagnosis of inflammatory arthritis conditions is usually made through clinical examination, a review of the patient’s history, imaging tests, CT scans, and blood tests to look for various markers of inflammation. Inflammatory arthritis may also be accompanied by symptoms elsewhere in the body that can also help with diagnosis.
What is ankylosing spondylitis?
Ankylosing spondylitis is a rare form of inflammatory arthritis that affects the bones in your spine.
Over time, inflammation between the vertebrae causes damage that results in the bones fusing together. This can make your back less flexible and can make you hunch forwards. If bones in the spine that are connected to ribs become fused, or the ribs themselves are affected, it can make it more difficult to breathe.
Ankylosing spondylitis symptoms
Ankylosing spondylitis most often affects joints at the base of your spine and your lower back, but also your ribs, breastbone, hips, and shoulder joints. It can cause pain, stiffness, and a reduced range of motion.
At first, symptoms may be minimal, but it can get worse as the condition progresses. At times symptoms may lessen, but then flare up and get worse for a time.
Ankylosing spondylitis diagnosis
There’s no one ankylosing spondylitis test that can confirm if you have the condition or not. Diagnosis of ankylosing spondylitis is done by assessing a patient’s history of symptoms and by using imaging tests, like X-rays. Blood tests may also be used to look for markers of inflammation.
Degenerative or mechanical arthritis
What is degenerative arthritis?
Degenerative arthritis, also called mechanical arthritis, is a group of conditions caused by damage and loss of cartilage at the end of your bones. As cartilage is lost, new cartilage and bone grow improperly in the joint, causing pain and loss of mobility. Osteoarthritis (described above) is one form of degenerative arthritis.
What causes degenerative arthritis?
Degenerative arthritis is caused by damage and loss of cartilage in a joint. This can happen due to an injury or can happen over time due to wear and tear on the joint.
As cartilage is lost, the affected joint can become unstable. To try and compensate for this, your body can produce more bone to try and stabilize the joint. This can lead to the growth of unwanted bone spurs, called osteophytes, causing the joint to become misshapen.
Degenerative arthritis symptoms
Degenerative arthritis commonly affects joints in your fingers, toes, neck, and your lower back. It can cause:
- A reduced range of motion
- Joint deformation to occur over time
Symptoms are often worse in the morning or after periods of inactivity.
Infectious arthritis (septic arthritis)
What is infectious arthritis?
Infections arthritis, also called septic arthritis, is joint pain and damage caused by an infection in a joint that results in rapid inflammation.
What causes infection arthritis?
Infectious arthritis is caused by an infection in your joint or the soft tissue or fluid surrounding a joint. The joint can become infected by a virus or a fungus, but joint infections are most commonly caused by bacteria, such as Staphylococcus aureus (staph) which naturally lives on your skin.
The infection can sometimes get into a joint directly through a wound or injury, but more often the infectious agent travels from elsewhere in your body into the joint.
Infectious arthritis symptoms
Infectious arthritis most often affects your knees, hips, wrists, and ankles, and usually only affects one joint in your body. Symptoms can come on quickly, and include:
- Rapid and intense inflammation and swelling
- Pain, often intense pain
- Fever and chills
Metabolic arthritis (gout)
What is metabolic arthritis?
Metabolic arthritis, commonly called gout, is a type of acute (short-lasting) arthritis caused by a buildup of uric acid in your body. The uric acid can form crystals in your joints, causing sudden and often serious pain.
What causes metabolic arthritis?
Uric acid is formed in your body when you break down a substance called purine. Purine is naturally produced by your cells and is also found in some food and drink, like organ meats, seafood and shellfish, and alcohol. Uric acid produced by breaking down purines is filtered out of your blood by your kidneys and lost in your urine.
In some people, uric acid levels can rise too high, either because too much purine is broken down, or because your kidneys don’t remove enough uric acid. This causes uric acid to build up in your blood and in parts of your body, like your joints. The uric acid in your joints, and the soft tissue around your joints, can solidify into crystals, which can cause inflammation and sudden and sharp pain.
Metabolic arthritis is usually short-lasting, typically around a week, and can disappear for months at a time. However, episodes of metabolic arthritis can become more frequent and longer-lasting, and the crystals can cause damage to joints, ligaments, and tendons, resulting in joint deformity and decreased motion.
Metabolic arthritis symptoms
Metabolic arthritis can affect any joint, but it most often occurs in toe joints, particularly the big toe, and also the joints in your ankles, knees, elbows, wrists, and fingers. Metabolic arthritis tends to come and go, with attacks of arthritis lasting around a week. It can cause:
- Severe pain
- Intense swelling and inflammation
- Reduced range of motion
Arthritis in children
Although arthritis is associated with older people and is often a disease that develops over time, some forms of arthritis can affect children too. These include infectious arthritis and forms of arthritis caused by the immune system mistakenly attacking joints. The most common form of arthritis in children is juvenile idiopathic arthritis (see below).
The symptoms of childhood arthritis will depend on the form of arthritis, but joint pain, stiffness, swelling and inflammation, fever, and fatigue are common.
Forms of chronic childhood arthritis (long-lasting arthritis) can cause damage to joints that lasts throughout the child’s life. In severe cases, this can result in permanent disabilities.
Juvenile idiopathic arthritis
What is juvenile idiopathic arthritis?
Juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA), also sometimes called juvenile rheumatoid arthritis (JRA), is a form of inflammatory arthritis that can develop in children before they reach 16 years of age. JIA can cause lasting joint damage, which in severe cases can cause lifelong disabilities.
What causes juvenile idiopathic arthritis?
The word idiopathic in juvenile idiopathic arthritis means a condition with no definite cause. This is because it’s not known for sure what causes JIA. It’s an autoimmune disease brought on by the immune system mistakenly attacking joints, resulting in inflammation and damage, but it’s not known what triggers the immune system to do this.
Symptoms of juvenile idiopathic arthritis
Juvenile idiopathic arthritis is an umbrella name for a range of types of autoimmune, inflammatory arthritis that affects children. Because of this JIA can affect any joint and can cause a variety of symptoms. Common symptoms include:
- Swelling and inflammation
- Reduced joint mobility
- Reduced appetite
What is psoriatic arthritis?
Psoriasis is a skin condition caused by a problem with the immune system. Up to 40% of people who have psoriasis also develop psoriatic arthritis, a form of arthritis thought to be caused by the same immune system problem. Some people who have psoriatic arthritis don’t have the skin condition but are thought to have the same underlying immune system condition.
Psoriatic arthritis causes
Psoriatic arthritis is caused by the immune system mistakenly attacking joints and soft tissues around the joints. It’s not clear what causes the immune system to do this, although psoriatic arthritis often runs in families and certain genes make it more likely someone will develop the condition. It’s likely that genetics can make someone more susceptible to developing psoriatic arthritis, and that something triggers it, possibly stress or an infection.
Psoriatic arthritis symptoms
Psoriatic arthritis can affect any joint, but it commonly occurs in joints in the fingers, toes, wrists, knees, and the lower spine. It can cause:
- Swelling of the fingers and toes so that they take on a sausage-like appearance
- Discoloration and distortion of the finger and toenails
What is fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia is a rheumatic condition that causes widespread pain throughout the bones and muscles. It also causes a wide range of other symptoms like fatigue, insomnia, cognitive problems, and mood issues.
It’s not known for sure what causes the widespread pain of fibromyalgia. Some researchers believe the condition is caused by the nerves and brain amplifying pain signals. Nerves may become more sensitive to stimulation, or the pathways in the brain involved in pain perception may be heightened.
It’s thought that genetics may make someone more likely to develop fibromyalgia, but that it may be triggered by infections, injuries, or stress. You’re more likely to develop fibromyalgia if you have other forms of arthritis like osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis.
Fibromyalgia can cause a wide range of symptoms, including:
- Widespread pain, often a dull, persistent pain on both sides of your body and above and below your waist
- Cognitive difficulties, including problems focusing, understanding, and memory, often called collectively “fibro fog”
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE)
What is systemic lupus erythematosus?
Systemic lupus erythematosus, usually just called lupus, is an autoimmune disease where your immune system mistakenly attacks soft tissue in your body. It results in inflammation in your connective tissues, like your tendons and ligaments, and in your organs. It can result in a form of arthritis where your joints become painful and swollen.
Systemic lupus erythematosus symptoms
Systemic lupus erythematosus can affect a range of tissues in your body and can cause many symptoms. The most common are:
- Stiff and painful joints
- Skin rashes, often a rash on the face across the nose and cheeks
- Muscle pain
- A general feeling of illness (malaise)
- Sores on the skin and in the mouth
- Hair loss
- Kidney disease
- Heart problems
Systemic lupus erythematosus diagnosis
Systemic lupus erythematosus can be difficult to diagnose, as it can cause a wide range of symptoms, many of which can be mistaken for other conditions. Diagnosis is usually made via an examination of your symptoms and by using certain laboratory tests that can look for markers of the disease such as particular antibodies.
What is scleroderma?
Scleroderma is a group of rare autoimmune diseases that affect soft tissues in your body, like your blood vessels, your muscles, your organs, and your skin.
It can cause soft tissues around your joints, including muscle, ligaments, and tendons, to thicken and harden, causing a form of arthritis as mobility is reduced and it becomes harder to move your joints.
Symptoms of scleroderma depend on which areas of your body are affected, but it can cause your skin to thicken and form rough patches on various parts of your body. It can also affect your organs and cause a form of arthritis if your joints are affected.
How is arthritis diagnosed?
A usual first step in arthritis diagnosis is to see your family doctor. They can examine your joints and symptoms and make an initial diagnosis. They may then refer you to a specialist, often a rheumatologist who specializes in joint diseases.
A rheumatologist may perform a physical exam, checking for swelling, damage, and range of motion of joints. They will likely also schedule a range of tests.
There’s no single arthritis test, as there are so many different types of arthritis with different causes. Blood tests are common though and can be used to check for the presence of substances in your blood related to your condition, like specific antibodies such as rheumatoid factor, or high levels of uric acid for gout.
You’ll likely also have one or more imaging scans, like an x-ray, MRI, or CT-scan. These can produce images of your bones, cartilage, and other soft joint tissue to help a doctor examine the appearance of your condition and the amount of damage caused.
Your diagnosis is usually made using evidence from all of the above.
Most forms of arthritis can’t be permanently cured. The goal of treatment is usually to reduce your pain and other symptoms and to limit any damage caused to the affected joints. Some forms of arthritis come and go over time, and treatments may make flare-ups less likely or shorter lasting. Other forms of arthritis get progressively worse, and treatment can slow this progression.
Arthritis treatments are varied, including prescription medications, surgery, and physical therapy. The types of treatment you use for your arthritis will depend on your condition and what you find works best for you. It may be as simple as using heat pads and ice packs, or you may use a combination of the treatments described below:
The type of medication used will depend on the form of arthritis. These are some of the commonly used arthritis medications:
- Painkillers and analgesics: can be used for arthritis pain management, from over the counter painkillers like aspirin and paracetamol, to opioid medications like tramadol and oxycontin.
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs): both reduce pain and inflammation and are suitable for forms of inflammatory arthritis. They come in pill form, like ibuprofen and naproxen, but can also be found in creams, gels, patches, and other products that can be applied topically to the affected joints.
- Counterirritants: are products that can be applied to joints to reduce feelings of pain. They usually come as creams and ointments and contain ingredients like menthol or capsaicin. They create various sensations when applied to your skin, which can distract from and lessen pain.
- Corticosteroids: prednisone and cortisone can be used for inflammatory arthritis, as they can reduce inflammation and suppress your immune system’s ability to cause inflammation.
- Immunosuppressants: are medications, like corticosteroids, that can suppress your immune system, limiting how much inflammation it can cause. Examples include prednisone and mTOR inhibitors like Sirolimus.
- Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs): like methotrexate (Trexall) and hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil), can be used to treat inflammatory arthritis. DMARDs reduce how much your immune system attacks your joints, reducing inflammation and damage.
- Biologics: are genetically engineered medications that can reduce inflammation. They target various proteins your immune system uses to cause inflammation and are often used alongside DMARDs. Examples include etanercept (Enbrel) and infliximab (Remicade).
Physical therapies may be appropriate for some patients depending on the type of arthritis they have and their circumstances. These therapies can reduce stiffness, maintain range of motion, limit joint degradation, and reduce pain. They include:
- Traditional physical therapy: for arthritis involves using tailored, controlled movements and exercises to keep joints mobile and to strengthen muscles around joints.
- Warm water therapy: involves performing exercises in a warm-water pool. The gentle heat can soothe joints, and the water supports weight, putting less pressure on joints as they’re exercised.
- Occupational therapy is practical advice on managing your daily life and everyday tasks with arthritis. It can cover moving and performing work tasks safely and may involve using specialized equipment and aids.
In some cases, arthritis may require surgery. This can be minor surgery to repair a joint, to remove damage, or in some cases, an entire joint can be replaced.
Arthroscopic surgery, also called key-hole surgery, may be used, which involves inserting surgical devices (called arthroscopes) into small incisions around the joint. It’s a minimally invasive form of surgery that requires less anesthesia than traditional surgery and usually takes less time to recover from. It can be used to repair soft tissue damage and to clean-up joints by cutting away impeding soft tissue and damaged bone.
In more serious circumstances, surgeons can remove and replace damaged joints. This is more common in larger joints, like hips and knees, but can also be done on shoulders, elbows, ankles, and knuckles. The joints are replaced by a prosthetic joint usually made of plastic, ceramic, or metal.
Natural remedies for arthritis
Natural and home remedies for arthritis include making changes to your diet, taking exercise, and developing self-management strategies and behaviors for your condition. These can be used alongside other treatments like medication and physical therapy to help you better live with your arthritis.
There’s no best diet for arthritis, but what you eat can help with your arthritis in a number of ways.
Firstly, eating a healthy, low-fat, low-sugar diet can help you lose excess weight and maintain a healthy weight. This can reduce the strain on your joints and limit your arthritis symptoms.
Certain foods and ingredients may also help with your arthritis more directly. Some foods may reduce inflammation, helping with inflammatory arthritis. These foods include:
- Fruit, particularly berries like cherries, strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries
- Green cruciferous vegetables, like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, spinach, and kale
- Bell peppers and chili peppers
- Fatty fish, like salmon, tuna, mackerel, and sardines
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- Green tea
- Dark chocolate
Foods to avoid for arthritis
Certain foods can help with arthritis by reducing inflammation, but the opposite is also true, some foods can increase inflammation. It may help your arthritis if you cut-out or limit some of the worst foods for arthritis, including:
- Refined carbohydrates, such as white bread, pasta, flour tortillas, white rice, pastries, and cakes
- Fried food, like fries, donuts, and fried chicken
- Soda and other high-sugar drinks
- Red meat, like beef, lamb, and pork
- Processed meat, such as sausages, bacon, salami, and hotdogs
- Trans fats, like shortening, margarine, and partially hydrogenated vegetable oils
Arthritis and exercise
Whilst it used to be thought that exercise was bad for people with arthritis, scientific research has shown this isn’t the case. The right exercise can reduce pain, can keep your joints mobile, and can protect you from damage caused by arthritis.
You may experience more pain initially if you’re not accustomed to exercising or are trying a new form of exercise, so it’s sensible to begin slowly and ease yourself into a new activity. You should also talk to your doctor or rheumatologist before starting a new form of exercise to make sure it’s safe and suitable for you, particularly if you have other conditions that can occur with arthritis, like heart disease.
Generally, exercises that get your joints moving but that don’t put too much strain and stress on your joints are the most suitable. If you find an exercise you enjoy, you’re also more likely to stick with it too. You can try:
- Water aerobics
- Strength training with weights
- Tai chi
Managing your arthritis
Self-management of your condition is also a key part of your arthritis treatment. Effective arthritis management can ease your symptoms, slow the progression of your disease, and help you live more happily with your condition. Try the following tips on how to manage arthritis:
- Care for your joints: make sure you move about your life in a way that minimizes stress on your joints, like opening doors with both hands, lifting objects slowly and carefully, or wearing a backpack on both shoulders rather than carrying a bag with one hand
- Manage your pain: learn to manage your pain with medication, hot and cold treatments, and rest
- Stay active: develop a regular exercise routine to help keep your arthritis at bay
- Manage fatigue: as well as staying active, it’s important you get enough rest and not overly-tire yourself as it can worsen your symptoms. Learn how often and when you need to rest
- Eat an arthritis-friendly diet: minimize the foods that can make inflammation worse and try to eat more of the food that can reduce inflammation
- Get enough sleep: not getting enough sleep or poor-quality sleep can worsen your arthritis symptoms, particularly your pain perception
- Stay organized: stay on top of your condition by keeping track of your medication, your pain and other symptoms, your reaction to medications and other treatments, and how your condition is changing over time
What is the long-term outlook for people with arthritis?
There’s no permanent cure for most forms of arthritis, and it is a disease that often worsens over time (a degenerative disease). However, by obtaining a diagnosis, understanding your condition, and getting the right treatments, you can significantly reduce your symptoms.
By using medication, physical therapy, lifestyle changes, and even surgery, you can reduce pain, you can keep your joints functioning, and you can make living with your arthritis simpler and easier.
Where to get support for arthritis?
As well as talking to doctors and other arthritis healthcare professionals, you can also get arthritis help and support from other sources. It may help to talk to other people with the same condition as you, or to trained mental health practitioners.
You can find various groups and networks online and on social media, and you can talk to your doctor about getting arthritis support, but a good place to start is:
The Arthritis Foundation. This a non-profit organization dedicated to addressing the needs of people living with arthritis in the United States. It has national and local groups and networks and can offer a range of help and support.