What Is Arthritis?

The word “arthritis” means “joint inflammation.” Inflammation is one of the body’s natural reactions to disease or injury, and includes swelling, pain, and stiffness. Chronic or recurring inflammation, in arthritis, can lead to tissue damage. With arthritis, an area in or around a joint becomes inflamed, causing pain, stiffness and, sometimes, difficulty moving. Some types of arthritis also affect other parts of the body, such as the skin and internal organs.

Different types of arthritis have different symptoms, and the symptoms will vary in severity from person to person. Osteoarthritis, the most common type, does not generally cause any symptoms outside the joint.

Types of Arthritis

Although there are more than 100 different types of arthritis, the cause of most types is unknown. Nonetheless, there are several risk factors for arthritis, some of which include:

  • Age – The risk of developing arthritis increases as we get older.
  • Gender – Arthritis is more prevalent among women.
  • Obesity – Carrying extra pounds places extra stress on weight-bearing joints, increasing their wear and tear and thus increasing the risk of arthritis.
  • Work and recreational factors – Some jobs or activities require repetitive movements or lifting that stresses the joints and/or causes an injury that may also lead to arthritis.

How Common is Arthritis?

Arthritis is very common and afflicts over 21% of our adult population, seriously limiting personal activities and causing major loss of work time. The January 2008 edition of Arthritis & Rheumatism reported that over 46 million U.S. adults reported ever being diagnosed with arthritis. Of those, 27 million suffered from osteoarthritis, 3 million from gout, and 1.3 million from rheumatoid arthritis. Arthritis affects people of all ages, but is significantly more common in older adults.

Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis; it occurs when the cartilage covering the end of the bones gradually wears away with age. Without the protection of the cartilage, the bones begin to rub against each other, and the resulting friction leads to pain and swelling. Osteoarthritis most often affects the hands and weight-bearing joints such as the knee, hip, and facet joints (in the spine).

Gout is a painful condition that occurs when the body cannot eliminate a natural substance called uric acid. The excess uric acid forms needle-like crystals in the joints that cause swelling and severe pain. Gout most often affects the big toe, knee, and wrist joints.

Rheumatoid arthritis is a long term disease that can affect joints in any part of the body, but most usually the hands, wrists, and knees. It occurs when the immune system mistakenly attacks itself and causes the joint lining to swell. The inflammation then spreads to the surrounding tissues, and can eventually damage cartilage and bone. In more severe cases, rheumatoid arthritis can affect other areas of the body, such as the skin, eyes, and nerves.

How Is Arthritis Treated?

In addition to options such as physical therapy, exercise, cold compresses, use of joint protection and surgery, the National Institutes of Health has concluded that because acupuncture is most effective at treating chronic pain from headaches, menstrual cramps, muscle pain etc it is also an acceptable alternative treatment for arthritis, particularly osteoarthritis. Their studies have shown that acupuncture helps reduce pain, may significantly lessen the need for painkillers, and can help improve range of motion in affected joints.

For now, there is no cure-all for arthritis, but with early diagnosis, most types of arthritis can be managed and the pain and disability minimized. In addition, early diagnosis and treatment may be able to prevent tissue damage caused by arthritis. The fine-tuned acupuncture treatment provided by Dr. Alex has played an important role in decreasing pain for his patients suffering from arthritis, making it possible to better manage their illness and minimize their discomfort. Very possibly, acupuncture provided by Dr. Alex can do the same for you. Please call 239-592-5367 or send an email for appointment.