If you have joint pain, you may have a joint condition—like arthritis—that can be treated. It's important to find out so you can prevent further damage.
Arthritis Care 101
- So your joints ache. Now what?
- How joints work.
A joint is the space between two bones. For joint movement to be smooth and flexible, you need a layer of shock-absorption comprised of cartilage and synovial fluid. As some people age, their cartilage layer can become thin and frayed over time. When this occurs, joints may start to feel stiff, and movement may become difficult and uncomfortable. At first, the cartilage becomes rough, but it can deteriorate to the point where the bones begin to rub against each other. The bones may even begin to form lumps. All of these stages can cause pain.
- So what is arthritis anyway?
That’s a tough one. "Arthritis" can cause pain, swelling, and limited movement in joints and connective tissue. Approximately 50 million Americans have some form of arthritis. Arthritis is not just a disease of older Americans; 300,000 children have arthritis, and 2/3 of adult sufferers are under the age of 65. Arthritis is not a single disease – there are many types. The two most common types are next.
- The most common type of arthritis: Osteoarthritis
Osteoarthritis also known as degenerative joint disease or “wear-and-tear” arthritis, is the most common form of arthritis, affecting over 27 million Americans. OA occurs when joint cartilage and other connective tissue breaks down, causing pain and stiffness and hampering physical movement. It tends to affect commonly used joints such as the knees, hips, spine, and hands and is associated with risk factors such as age, obesity, trauma, overuse, and genetics. While OA can be effectively managed, there is no cure.
- What are some common signs of arthritis?
Arthritis is characterized by the following traits:
- Morning stiffness lasting 30 minutes or less.
- Joint pain or tenderness that is constant or that comes and goes.
- Not being able to move a joint in the normal way.
- Weakness and joint pain that can't be explained.
This is not a complete list of all possible symptoms.
If you think you may be experiencing signs of arthritis, consult your doctor. You can start protecting your joints by doing any of the following:
- Listen to your body and stop any activity that causes ongoing pain.
- Alternate heavy or repeated tasks with easy tasks or breaks in your daily schedule. Change tasks often.
- Use larger, stronger joints to carry loads. For example, carry a purse on your shoulder instead of with your fingers.
- Don't remain in the same position for a long time; get up and walk around periodically.
- Try some exercise to help relieve your pain. We have some great recommendations here. But please remember to talk to your doctor before beginning or revising any exercise regimen.