Arthritis Overview and Treatment
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), arthritis is now the number one leading cause of disability in America. Women tend to be affected at a much higher rate than men, leading at a percentage of 24.3% of the population versus 11.5%. In the next 20 years, the number of affected Americans is expected to climb from roughly 45 million to about 67 million.
Two Types of Arthritis – Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid
There are two main types of arthritis: osteoarthritis and rheumatoid. Osteoarthritis is a degenerative disease, affecting the joints through the breakdown of cartilage via wear and tear. This can occur simply due to old age, but more often than not, obesity is a factor.
The most common joints that are affected by osteoarthritis are the knees.The spine, hips, elbows, ankles, feet and shoulders can also be become affected. Achy joints that athletes experience as they grow older might be due in part to osteoarthritis.
Cartilage is a slick, spongy, protective material found in between joint bones to cushion the friction as they move. With osteoarthritis, this spongy protective layer becomes worn down and thin in places, causing friction, which then results in pain and swelling. The essential problem with arthritis is that cartilage is still being made at the same rate, but it’s being worn away at a faster rate as a person ages. So the ratio is off.
The weight of an obese person might cause more wear and tear on the cartilage than a person who is of normal weight. One of the most painful forms of osteoarthritis is in the spine, where the cartilage between each disc wears down.
Spinal Arthritis (Spondyloarthritis)
In a recent study, vascular disease has been found to be a contributing factor in spinal degeneration. (P. Suri, J.N. Katz, J. Rainville, L. Kalichman, A. Guermazi, D.J. Hunter. Osteoarthritis and Cartilage. Sept 2010 v18 i9 p1127)
When spinal degeneration and/or osteoarthritis occur, the propensity for bone spurs is probable. Bone spurs are small points of bone growth in areas of inflammation or degeneration. They can often be quite painful, resulting in pinched nerves, increased swelling and localized tenderness. Along with the bone spurs, there is often soft tissue overgrowth around the joint capsule. All of this can pinch on nerve roots, which is call spinal stenosis.
Osteoarthritis of the spine can cause pain and stiffness in the neck as well, even resulting in headaches or migraines. Some osteoarthritis sufferers are able to manage the pain with massages, holistic care, physical therapy and exercise, and medicine. Others are plagued with consistent pain that affects their daily lives and activity. For those, symptoms of depression, anxiety and other mental disorders may occur.
Treatment with the best pain management doctors in Arizona may include chiropractic, physical rehabilitation, acupuncture, injections or additional treatments such as radiofrequency ablation and stem cell injections.
Rheumatoid arthritis is a different form of arthritic disease, causing long-term, chronic inflammation that can lead to a loss of movement and mobility in the joints.
Rheumatoid arthritis typically affects both sides of the body, and is found primarily in the hands (fingers), wrists, ankles and feet. Like osteoarthritis, rheumatism (as it’s commonly referred to) affects more women than men. Often times, this form of arthritis can become disfiguring. While there is no understanding or knowledge of the cause of rheumatoid arthritis, doctors do know that it’s an autoimmune disease that attacks healthy tissue and bone.
Symptoms Associated With Arthritis
Some of the more common symptoms of this type of arthritis are: a stiffening of the joints (sometimes first noticeable in the fingers), a hot, burning sensation that radiates outward from the joints, redness and swelling, muscle aches and a general feeling of unwell.
Rheumatoid arthritis can be extremely debilitating, particularly when it affects the spine. This particular condition is referred to as ankylosing spondylitis or rheumatoid spondylitis. Like with the other joints, rheumatoid spondylitis causes swelling in the spinal discs and bones, resulting in spurs, swelling, pain and stiffness.
It may even affect the bones connecting the pelvis to the spine. In addition to causing swelling, pain and stiffness of the joints, rheumatoid arthritis may also be a contributing factor to other diseases and conditions.
In a study conducted in 2005 by the Mayo Clinic, rheumatoid arthritis patients “…were found to not only have a higher risk of coronary heart disease than those in the general population, but also that they have more silent, unrecognized heart attacks and sudden cardiac deaths.” (Arthritis; Rheumatoid arthritis patients at higher risk for unrecognized heart disease.” Obesity, Fitness & Wellness Week. 26 Feb. 2005)
More recently, the Mayo Clinic recognized that since rheumatoid arthritis sufferers are more susceptible to heart disease, new methods of early detection must be discovered. In June 2012, the Mayo Clinic published findings that a “…myocardial strain imaging using a special type of ultrasound called speckle-tracking echocardiography can detect early abnormalities in heart function unique to rheumatoid arthritis patients, and may be an effective way to screen them for cardiovascular disease.” (“Rheumatoid Arthritis; Ultrasounds spot heart disease early in rheumatoid arthritis patients, Mayo Clinic finds.” Obesity, Fitness & Wellness Week. 23 Jun. 2012)
While doctors are discovering new and innovative medical treatments, screenings and prevention each year, there is no question that medical therapies (cortisone shots, NSAIDs, prescription drugs) combined with alternative therapies (such as heat or cold therapy, massage, acupuncture, nutritional supplements, etc.) and chiropractic care can provide substantial relief and help patients feel more in control of their condition.
Regenerative medicine treatments are coming into play, including stem cell injections and platelet rich plasma (PRP). In smaller studies, the results have been excellent. For the spine, arthritis is being treated with radiofrequency ablation. These procedures show over an 80% success rate.
If you or a loved one is experiencing joint or spine pain, arthritis may very well be the cause. To receive treatment with the best pain clinics in Phoenix and Scottsdale metropolitan area, call Arizona Pain Specialists today!