Arthritis is a common disorder that affects your joints. It can cause pain and inflammation, making it difficult to move or stay active. There are many types of arthritis. Each form causes different symptoms and may need different treatments. While arthritis usually affects older adults, it can develop in men, women and children of any age.
It may be difficult to say what has caused your arthritis. There are several factors that can increase the risk of each type of arthritis. It could be that the genes you inherited from your parents or grandparents made you more likely to get arthritis. Arthritis can make life tough by causing pain and making it harder to get about. The symptoms of arthritis can vary from week to week, and even from day to day. Many types, such as osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, are long-term conditions.
Types of Arthritis
Osteoarthritis. This is the most common type. It causes the cartilage on the ends of your bones to wear away. That makes the bones rub against each other. You might have pain in your fingers, knees, or hips. The cartilage breakdown, or degeneration, of osteoarthritis often happens with age. This is why osteoarthritis is sometimes called degenerative joint disease. But if there are other causes, it can begin much sooner.
Gout: This is a painful condition that happens when the body can’t get rid of a natural substance called uric acid. The excess uric acid forms needle-like crystals in the joints that cause marked inflammation with swelling and severe pain. It most often affects the big toe, knee, and wrist joints.
What to do
- Cognitive behavioral therapy. This well-studied, effective combination of talk therapy and behavior modification helps you identify — and break — cycles of self-defeating thoughts and actions.
- Relaxation therapy. Meditating, doing yoga, deep breathing, listening to music, being in nature, writing in a journal — do whatever helps you relax. There’s no downside to relaxation, and it can help ease pain.
- Acupuncture. Some people get pain relief through acupuncture treatments, when a trained acupuncturist inserts hair-thin needles at specific points on your body. It can take several weeks before you notice improvement.
- Heat and cold. Use of heat, such as applying heating pads to aching joints, taking hot baths or showers, or immersing painful joints in warm paraffin wax, can help relieve pain temporarily. Be careful not to burn yourself. Use heating pads for no more than 20 minutes at a time. Use of cold, such as applying ice packs to sore muscles, can relieve pain and inflammation after strenuous exercise.
- Massage. Massage might improve pain and stiffness temporarily. Make sure your massage therapist knows where your arthritis affects you.