What is Arthritis?
Simply put, arthritis is the inflammation of your joints. Joints allow us to perform movements, such as bending our knees, or sitting down and standing up. Inside those joints is cartilage, which acts as the cushion that absorbs shock and allows our bones to move without rubbing against one another.
But when the cartilage and lining of the joints are damaged, those movements become difficult and often painful. And when it gets bad, arthritis can be truly debilitating.
There are more than 100 documented types of arthritis that can affect the body as a result of joint trauma, infection, or age. So, if you are over 50, there's a good chance you suffer from some sort of arthritis in your feet, knees, hips, or lower back. Arthritis pain can range from minimal to severe. Read on for tips on how to identify inflammation of the joints and reduce arthritis pain.
Causes and Symptoms
Your feet alone have 33 separate joints that help you stand, walk, and run. The sheer number makes your feet particularly susceptible to developing arthritis in one or more of those joints.
Arthritis actually encompasses a range of conditions, including severely debilitating diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis. But the most common is osteoarthritis.
Osteoarthritis is also called degenerative arthritis. Over time, the inflammation can cause additional problems that can affect your mobility and increase your discomfort, such as:
- Cartilage destruction.
- Bone spurs and other damage to your bone structure.
- Formations of cysts, or sacs of thickened joint material and fluid.
Experts haven't fully pinpointed what causes osteoarthritis. They have identified factors that make you more likely to suffer from the condition, including:
- A history of arthritis in your family.
- Joint injury or trauma.
- Infections. Some bacterial or viral infections can affect the joints and lead to arthritis.
Could I have arthritis?
To find out, take a closer look at where you feel pain.
Which parts of my body hurt?
Arthritis affects your joints. In the lower body, joints are located in your:
- Lower back
Think You Might Have Arthritis?
Self- Assessment Quiz
Have I experienced:
- Early-morning joint stiffness?
- Limited movement of any joints?
- Swelling in my joints?
- Recurring joint pain or tenderness?
- Redness or heat around my joints?
- Any of the above symptoms combined with skin changes such as rashes or growths?
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you show some key symptoms of arthritis. Confirm your condition with your doctor.
If you have pain in multiple areas of your body every morning for over 3 months, get evaluated by a physician. You want to rule out any inflammatory arthritic conditions like rheumatoid arthritis.
Are there any serious concerns with arthritis?
Over time, you may experience more and more difficulty walking and performing everyday movements. Unfortunately, arthritis can progress to the point that it becomes truly disabling. In those cases, you may need surgery to replace or realign a joint.
Treatment and Prevention
Many options exist for treating arthritis, but they all share the same goal—controlling inflammation. One way to do this is to move your joints as much as possible. When it comes to mobility, if you don’t move it, you may lose it.
Here are some important tips to help you reduce joint inflammation:
Wear shoes with:
- Good all-around support and cushioning, to reduce shock and impact on your joints.
- High, wide toe boxes, especially if you have misshapen toes.
- Rocker bottom soles, to make walking easier and reduce stress on the ball of your foot.
Use other supports to reduce stress on your joints, such as:
- Orthotics in your shoes.
- Toe straighteners and protectors.
Use medications to find relief:
- Anti-inflammatory creams, analgesics, or other topical treatments.
- Aspirin or other anti-inflammatory medications.
- Over-the-counter glucosamine and chondroitin supplements, which have been reported to improve joint health.
What’s the best type of exercise to combat arthritis? Try low-impact activities such as walking, swimming, or using an exercise bike, elliptical, or stairmaster. These activities will keep your body moving without the pressure of lots of impact on the joints.
Hot / cold therapy on your affected areas can help relieve pain and inflammation.
In more severe cases, your doctor may recommend physical therapy or surgery.