For the approximately 54 million Americans with some form of arthritis or a related disease, pain is a persistent nemesis that is all too common. Affecting people of all ages, sexes and races, arthritis is the leading cause of disability in America.

Arthritis is inflammation of one or more of your joints that causes pain and stiffness. Any joint in the body may be affected by the disease, but it is particularly common in weight-bearing joints such as the knee, hip and spine. Dull, sharp, burning or squeezing pressure are all primary symptoms of arthritis.

For advocacy support, visit the Arthritis Foundation

What is Arthritis?

If you feel pain and stiffness in your body or have trouble moving around, you might have arthritis. Most kinds of arthritis cause pain and swelling in your joints. Joints are places where two bones meet, such as your elbow or knee. Over time, a swollen joint can become severely damaged. Some kinds of arthritis can also cause problems in your organs, such as your eyes or skin.

One type of arthritis, osteoarthritis, is often related to aging or to an injury. Other types occur when your immune system, which normally protects your body from infection, attacks your body’s own tissues. Rheumatoid arthritis is the most common form of this kind of arthritis. Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis is a form of the disease that happens in children. Infectious arthritis is an infection that has spread from another part of the body to the joint. Gouty arthritis is a painful condition that occurs when there are elevated levels of uric acid in the bloodstream, which the body is unable to eliminate

Arthritis Foundation
NIH – National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases


What are arthritis symptoms?

Arthritis symptoms vary from person to person and by type of arthritis, but may include:
• Pain, swelling, or stiffness in one or more joints
• Joints that are red or warm to the touch
• Joint tenderness or stiffness
• Trouble moving around and decreased range of motion.


What causes arthritis pain?

There are many genes that make people more likely to have arthritis. If you have the gene linked with arthritis, something in your environment—such as a virus or injury—may trigger the condition. Some of the causes of arthritis pain include:

• Inflammation in the joints, tendons, or ligaments
• Damage to tissue in the joint
• Muscle strain caused by overcompensating muscles to protect the joints
• Fatigue, joint pain, hair loss, kidney problems caused by the disease process
• Autoimmune inflammatory diseases that attack the body


What are my treatment options for arthritis pain relief?

Arthritis treatment varies from person to person and aims to control pain, minimize joint damage and improve or maintain function and quality of life. There is no single arthritis treatment that applies to all people with arthritis, and the medication options will depend on the type of arthritis. There are many arthritis treatment options available, including:

• Pain medications – pain medications can include acetaminophen (Tylenol), aspirin or other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), or disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs).
• Heat and Cold therapy – placing heat on the joint for 15 minutes may help relieve the pain. An ice pack placed on the sore area for 15 minutes may reduce swelling as well as help relieve the pain.
• Topicals – lidocaine or NSAID ointments can work best for localized pain on small joints and have a lower risk of stomach irritation.
• Protect your joints – using a brace will allow the joint to rest and can provide compression, which can reduce swelling.
• Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) – TENS unit therapy is a non-invasive method of pain relief  and it delivers soothing electric pulses to the nerve endings under the skin in the painful area causing the pain signal to be blocked.
• Injections – injecting hyaluronic acids or corticosteroid into the inflamed, painful joint can provide some patients weeks or even months of relief.
• Nonmedical Interventions –including meditation, relaxation techniques, massage and acupuncture can significantly reduce chronic pain.


What steps can I take to manage arthritis pain?

• Take your medications.
• Maintain a healthy diet and weight – excess weight can add stress to certain joints, primarily weight-bearing joints such as knees and hips.
• Get plenty of rest!
• Keep a pain journal to share with your pain management physician.
• Stay active and be sure to exercise – low impact activities such as walking, swimming, cycling and stretching can be an effective way to reduce joint pain and improve function.
• Keep a Positive Attitude – studies show that a positive attitude can significantly boost your ability to cope with pain.

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For help managing your pain, call the Carolinas Pain Institute to schedule an appointment with one of our pain management specialists.