By Lindsey Christie
, Knee1 Staff
Arthritis is a condition that includes more than 100 types of diseases that cause pain, loss of movement, and swelling around the joints. Millions of Americans are diagnosed with arthritis every year. Several types of arthritis affect the knee area including osteoarthritis (OA) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Because there is no cure for arthritis it can be a frustrating and debilitating condition. The options typically offered to patients for management of the disease are: medications, minimal physical therapy, and, if those are ineffective, total knee replacement. However, there are a couple of simple things that people suffering with arthritis can do to cope with their condition and improve pain.
Most importantly you must first recognize your condition. This requires you to pay close attention to your body and the signals it sends. Arthritic symptoms can be vague or non-specific. Often people live with this sporadic pain for a while and delay a visit to the doctor. However, the sooner you see your doctor and get an accurate diagnosis the better. Early diagnosis may prevent unnecessary pain and frustration; it may also provide you with more treatment options. Early treatment may, in turn, mean less joint damage and less pain. Some of the symptoms associated with OA and RA are: pain, stiffness, and swelling in or around your knee joint. In addition, knee arthritis is usually associated with an ache or stabbing pain in the knee that may extend into the thigh or lower leg. This pain usually worsens during activities or weight-bearing exercises.
Once a diagnosis is confirmed you should educate yourself. Become a partner with your doctor in the decision-making process. The more you know about your disease and the treatments available to you, the easier it will be to make informed decisions regarding your treatment. There have been several surgical developments in recent years and currently two new medications, Celebrex and Vioxx, help alleviate the pain and inflammation associated with arthritis. In addition to the above, you can take steps at home to minimize pain and suffering as you learn to live with arthritis. The Arthritis Foundation offers 10 tips to help people living with arthritis.
- Protect your joints - Avoid excess stress on your joints. Use larger or stronger joints to carry things. Assistive devices can make tasks at home and work easier.
- Get moving – Exercise helps lessen pain, increase range of movement, reduces fatigue and helps you feel better overall. Your doctor, a physical therapist, or other specially trained health professionals can show you range-of-motion and strengthening exercises that are good for arthritis.
- Pick, pour or peel – If you are looking for a snack, reach for an orange or a tall glass of orange juice. Recent research has shown that vitamin C and other antioxidants reduce the risk of osteoarthritis and its progression.
- Have a good laugh – Laughing – even when you feel like crying from agony – can relax muscles, relieve pain, and even boost your immune system.
- Resolve to reduce – Stay close to your recommended body weight. Every extra pound you carry around translates to added stress on your knees. Excess weight can mean more pain and can contribute to and aggravate osteoarthritis.
- Take drugs the right way – Take your medication just as your doctor prescribes. If you’re tempted to stop because you feel it’s not working or you believe causing side effects, call your doctor first. It can take weeks for the full benefits of a medication to become apparent, and some side effects ease over time. Stopping a medication abruptly may not only cause you to miss out on its benefits – in some cases it can be dangerous.
- Take a walk – Walking is the ideal exercise for most people with arthritis. It burns calories, strengthens muscles and builds denser bones – all without jarring fragile joints.
- Soak in a hot tub – A warm bath before bed can relieve muscle tension, ease aching joints and help you get a good night’s sleep.
- Take the plunge – Exercising in the water can build strength and increase range of motion, and the water’s buoyancy reduces wear and tear on sore knees.
- Make a pack – When joints are hot and inflamed, applying something cold can decrease pain and swelling by constricting blood vessels and preventing fluids from leaking into surrounding tissues.
If you are interested in reading more tips for living with arthritis or finding an arthritis chapter near you, please visit The Arthritis Foundation at http://www.arthritis.org
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