Arthritis and Pain

Chances are, you or someone you know has arthritis.

Arthritis – literally meaning ‘inflammation of the joints’ – it affects up to four million Canadians in varying way and to varying degrees; it’s the number one cause of long-term disability in Canada; it’s the third most common reason for prescription drug use in Canada. Of all the reasons for visiting a doctor, arthritis is second only to the flu and the common cold. (Arthroscope)

Definition

The most common types of arthritis are osteoarthritis (OA) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA).

  • Osteoarthritis (OA) is the result of wear and tear on the joints or from an injury. Most people only have a mild discomfort, but as the cartilage wears away from the bone, people may experience a considerable amount of pain, inflammation and loss of movement.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) affects the cartilage, joint membranes and the bones-similar to OA. Unlike OA it can also affect the body as a whole with symptoms such as loss of appetite and a general feeling of under the weather. The main symptom of RA is inflammation of the joints.
  • Other types of arthritis include fibromyalgia, lupus, polymyalgia rheumatica, bursitis, ankylosing spondylitis and gout. (Arthrotalk: Plain Talk About Arthritis-What is Arthritis?)

Who gets it?

Anyone can get arthritis, from newborn babies to seniors and every age group in between.

Different types of arthritis are more prevalent in certain age groups. Osteoarthritis, occurs more often as people grow older. Osteoarthritis is the most common joint disease. Rheumatoid arthritis affects all ages from toddlers to seniors. It appears most commonly between the ages of 35 and 50 and affects women three times more often than men.

Different types of arthritis are more prevalent in certain age groups. Osteoarthritis, occurs more frequently in the elderly. Rheumatoid arthritis affects all ages from toddlers to seniors. It appears most commonly between the ages of 35 and 50 and affects women three times more often than men. (Discover Celebrex)

I think I have arthritis

If you have doubts about whether or not you suffer from arthritis, please take our self-assessment test. If you answer yes to one or more of the questions, please speak with your doctor.

  • Are your joints sore or do they ache regularly?
  • Do you experience joint stiffness more than 2 times a week?
  • Have you noticed that joint pain/stiffness is stopping you from doing the things you enjoy?
  • Do you have stiff joints in the morning?
  • Have you suffered a sports and/or activity-related injury?
  • Do you have joints that are red, swollen, warm to the touch and often crack or pop when you move?
  • Do sore joints make it hard to sleep or wake you up at night?
  • Do you take pain medication more than 3 times a week because of your joint pain?

Treatment

Though the exact cause of arthritis is unknown, physicians and researchers have developed treatments that can significantly improve the most debilitating symptoms.

Once a diagnosis of arthritis is made, your doctor will review with you some of the options for treatment. Treatment will likely include non-medication therapies — such as physiotherapy, occupational therapy, exercise and relaxation techniques — as well as medications.

Medical treatment of arthritis can be divided into two main categories:

1. Treatment to control the symptoms of pain, stiffness and swelling:

  • Painkillers and anti-inflammatory medications are in this category.
  • These medications usually take days to weeks to begin to work.
  • These medications may make you feel better, but they do not affect the course of the arthritis, nor will they prevent the damage to bones and joints that can occur with the disease.

2. Treatment to control the disease itself:

  • These medications, used primarily for the treatment of inflammatory arthritis, work to help prevent joint damage that can lead to deformities. They will help keep your joints healthy for many years to come.
  • These medications often take six weeks to six months to begin to have an effect. They work to address the root of the problem in inflammatory arthritis. Shutting down all the inflammatory processes can take a long time, but the result of healthy joints will be worth it. Drugs from both of these categories are often used in combination. A new group of drugs called Biologic Agents is now also used to control arthritis.

Prevention

Arthritis cannot be prevented. There is no high-risk activity that can aggravate arthritis. There are also no lifestyle changes that can prevent it. If you have had a sports related injury, you may eventually develop osteoarthritis. On the other hand, if you have been diagnosed with having arthritis you can prevent the conditions from deteriorating. For example, exercise, diet and knowing when to relax and rest are the most helpful.