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Arthritis - 101

Feeling achy? That could be the cause of arthritis, an often-painful disease affecting over 50 million adults in the US alone. From mild to severe forms, arthritis has its own distinct set of symptoms and treatments; and knowing more about its basics could prove useful whether dealing with an acute flare up or hoping to prevent future outbreaks altogether. In this article, we'll go over all aspects of arthritis from causes and treatments to prevention.


Arthritis can be defined as joint inflammation caused by several factors. These may include age-related wear and tear, genetics, or an injury/infection. Lupus, an autoimmune disease, can also play a part in its development.

Age-Related Wear and Tear

This condition most frequently affects older adults as their natural repair systems weaken, joint cartilage begins to thin, and natural repair mechanisms slow in their effectiveness.


Certain genetic conditions can increase one's risk for arthritis. Common examples are rheumatoid and psoriatic arthritis—two autoimmune diseases which cause joint inflammation.

Injury or Infection

Injury and infection can cause swelling and inflammation to arise in joints, increasing your risk for arthritis.


Lupus is an autoimmune disease that affects multiple parts of the body, including joints. This may result in joint pain and swelling as well as arthritis in some cases.

Knee Pain 

For those experiencing knee pain, it is crucial to identify its source. While age-related wear and tear could be to blame, others could have an underlying condition such as arthritis or lupus that requires medical intervention requiring specific treatment.

Symptoms of Arthritis 

The main sign of arthritis is joint pain ranging from mild to severe. Stiffness when first awakening and after periods of rest are also characteristic symptoms, with swelling and redness around affected joints often caused by inflammation associated with arthritis. Other common signs include decreased range of motion in affected joints, as well as fatigue—more serious cases could involve difficulty moving the affected joint or using it regularly.

Joint Pain or Tenderness in the Joints

Common symptoms of arthritis range from mild to severe inflammation and often impact one joint at a time, but may also spread throughout multiple joints.

Swelling, Redness, and Warmth Around an Affected Joint

Arthritis can lead to joint swelling, redness and warmth - particularly with rheumatoid arthritis - an autoimmune disease which triggers widespread inflammation throughout the body.

Stiffness in Joints After Rest or Inactivity

Arthritis patients may experience stiff joints after periods of rest or inactivity due to reduced flexibility caused by inflammation or damage to cartilage surrounding a joint.

Problems Moving or Utilizing the Joint Regularly

Movement may become challenging due to inflammation and damage in joints affected by arthritis. Furthermore, moving one of these joints may even become painful.

Loss of Range of Motion in a Joint

As arthritis worsens over time, its impact may gradually reduce joint range of motion. This is caused by scarring and tissue damage caused by prolonged inflammation.

Diagnosing Arthritis

If you are experiencing any of the symptoms listed above, it is crucial that you visit your physician. They will perform a physical exam and review your medical history to diagnose it properly; depending on what kind of arthritis they suspect, they may also suggest imaging tests such as X-rays or MRIs to confirm a definitive diagnosis.

Treatment Options for Arthritis

Arthritis treatments vary depending on its severity and type. Oftentimes, over-the-counter medication, such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen, can help manage symptoms related to arthritis by relieving pain and inflammation associated with its condition. Topical creams containing capsaicin are frequently prescribed to soothe arthritic joints. More severe cases may require nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories, corticosteroids, biologics and disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs). 

Physical therapy is frequently recommended to strengthen muscles surrounding affected joints and maintain range of motion, though surgery may sometimes be necessary. Lifestyle changes may also prove useful for managing arthritis; examples include regular exercise or eating healthily and maintaining an ideal weight. Stress reduction techniques like yoga or meditation may help to decrease inflammation while increasing overall quality of life.

Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) 

NSAIDs (Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs) are medications designed to ease inflammation and pain associated with arthritis. Both over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription forms exist, though prescription versions may provide more powerful relief.


Corticosteroids are powerful anti-inflammatory medications used to reduce pain caused by arthritis. Prescribed via injection or pill, these anti-inflammatories have long-term use potential but have serious adverse reactions when taken for prolonged periods.


Biologic drugs are an innovative type of medication that work by blocking certain pathways in the body that cause pain and inflammation associated with arthritis, providing fast relief. Unfortunately, however, they tend to be more expensive and may have adverse side effects that make treatment ineffective or take much longer to work than its alternatives.

Disease-Modifying Antirheumatic Drugs (DMARDs)

DMARDs (drugs that modify the progression of disease rather than treating its symptoms) are medications prescribed to delay joint damage caused by inflammation and should typically be taken over long periods.

Physical Therapy 

Studies have proven the efficacy of physical therapy as an effective treatment for arthritis. The goal is to maintain range of motion in affected joints while strengthening surrounding muscles. A physical therapist can develop an individualized treatment plan including exercises, stretches, massages, heat/ice therapy, or any combination thereof.

Assistive Devices

Assistive devices like canes, walkers, and wheelchairs can help reduce strain on affected joints while making life simpler for those living with arthritis. Furthermore, these assistive devices facilitate movement for easier daily tasks to be performed more easily.


Sometimes, surgery may be required to manage arthritis symptoms effectively. Surgery typically becomes necessary when other therapies have failed or when there is risk of joint damage; different forms of surgeries include joint replacement, fusion, and arthroscopy.

Prevention of Arthritis

Unfortunately, there is no proven method for preventing arthritis; however, lifestyle modifications may help lower your risk or slow its progress.

  • Maintain a Healthy Weight: Being overweight puts undue strain on joints, increasing your risk for osteoarthritis. By staying within a healthy range, keeping weight within acceptable parameters may help lessen that risk.
  • Eat Healthier: Maintaining a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats can help decrease inflammation in the body—this can be especially useful for people living with arthritis.
  • Stay Physically Active: Exercising regularly can help keep joints flexible while strengthening surrounding muscles. Swimming, yoga, and pilates can all provide beneficial exercises for people living with arthritis.
  • Avoid Smoking: Smoking has been linked with an increased risk of rheumatoid arthritis; quitting can help lower this risk and improve overall health.
  • Maintain Adequate Rest: Adequate rest is vital for overall health and wellbeing, including joint health. People who get enough rest tend to experience less joint discomfort.

Arthritis is a chronic condition that can be effectively managed through medication, lifestyle changes, and additional therapies such as physical therapy and assistive devices. When first diagnosed with arthritis it's essential that they work closely with their doctor in identifying an effective treatment  plan—symptoms of arthritis will diminish while improving overall quality of life.

Receiving the Treatment You Need

Dr. Altenburg offers more advanced treatment for arthritis with joint replacement procedures, such as knee and hip replacements, to alleviate pain and increase mobility and strength in affected areas. These surgeries are minimally invasive and have proven to significantly enhance quality of life for those suffering from arthritis in their knees or hips. Dr. Altenburg takes great pride in providing comprehensive care to his patients quickly on the road to recovery. Don't hesitate to get in touch with him if you or anyone you know needs relief from knee or hip arthritis today.