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Understanding Arthritis

Arthritis is the leading cause of disability in America. Understanding the most common types of arthritis, as well as the causes and treatment options, is the first step to improving your quality of life and, ideally, preventing arthritis in the first place.

What Is Arthritis?

The literal definition of arthritis is joint inflammation. However, there are more than 100 different types of arthritis and related conditions. Symptoms of arthritis include pain, swelling, stiffness, redness and heat. Symptoms may come and go, but arthritis can get worse over time, leading to chronic pain that makes everyday activities like walking and climbing stairs painful and difficult. Some forms of arthritis can affect different parts of the body, including the heart, eyes, lungs, kidneys, and skin.

How Common Is Arthritis?

Arthritis affects people of all ages, genders, and races, including more than 54 million adults and 300,000 children and babies. Of course, those estimates are based on diagnosed arthritis. Many more people are likely living with arthritis and don’t know it. According to the Arthritis Foundation, the number of people with arthritis is expected to exceed 78 million by 2040.
Arthritis is more common in women and the elderly and in people with other chronic diseases. For example, nearly half of people with heart disease and diabetes, and nearly one-third of people who are obese, have arthritis. Arthritis is also one of the five most costly health conditions among American adults.

Types of Arthritis

The most common type of arthritis is osteoarthritis. This is the degenerative, “wear and tear” arthritis that happens when the cartilage that cushions the ends of your bones breaks down over time. If the cartilage breaks down completely, bone rubs against bone, causing extreme pain and loss of mobility. This can contribute to conditions ranging from depression to insomnia. Osteoarthritis is usually found in the hands, knees, hips, or spine but can occur in any joint.

Most other types of arthritis fall under the umbrella of autoimmune arthritis. Instead of attacking infection or disease, the immune system attacks healthy cells, causing inflammation. Researchers still don’t know why this happens, although genetics, hormones, and lifestyle choices are believed to trigger autoimmune arthritis. Symptoms of autoimmune arthritis include deformed joints, hard bumps (nodules) under the skin, limited range of motion, dry mouth, sleeping difficulty, fatigue, weight loss, anemia, chest pain, and dry, itchy eyes.

Common forms of autoimmune arthritis include:

  • Rheumatoid arthritis (a condition that often occurs in the wrists, hands, and knees but can also affect the eyes, mouth, lungs, heart, and other parts of the body)
  • Psoriatic arthritis (a skin condition that typically follows psoriasis)
  • Lupus (a disease that can affect joints, skin, and blood cells and damage important organs such as the kidneys, brain, heart, and lungs)
  • Gout (a form of metabolic arthritis resulting from the buildup of uric acid, usually in the big toe or foot)
  • Ankylosing spondyloarthritis (arthritis of the spine)

Causes of Arthritis

Again, osteoarthritis is caused by wear and tear and becomes more common with age. But what causes that wear and tear? Obesity and a sedentary lifestyle are often the culprit. Excess weight puts more strain on bones and soft tissue in your joints, and fat tissue produces proteins that cause inflammation. Most people who are obese consume an inflammatory diet high in sugar, processed foods, saturated fats, and manmade substances. Overuse, repeated stress, joint injuries and trauma, and metabolic diseases such as diabetes can also cause osteoarthritis.

Although the exact cause of autoimmune arthritis is not known, research suggests early life exposure to toxins, smoking, and obesity increase the risk of developing the disease.

Treatments for Arthritis

In addition to a physical examination and discussion about your medical history, analysis of blood, urine, and joint fluid can help us identify the type and cause of your arthritis. Diagnostic imaging such as x-rays, CT scans, MRI, and ultrasound can also show degeneration and damage and allow us to track the progression of arthritis. Because autoimmune arthritis often shares symptoms of other diseases, multiple tests are could be required to connect the dots between the symptom, the disease, and the cause.
Prevention of arthritis is obviously preferable to treating arthritis. However, physical therapy, chiropractic care, and therapeutic massage can help you regain range of motion and flexibility. Clinical nutrition and supplements can reduce inflammation and slow the progression of arthritis. The proper nutritional protocols combined with a personalized exercise program can help you lose weight and relieve pressure on the joints, which can reduce pain and swelling.

If a conservative approach doesn’t help or arthritis has progressed too far, surgery might be the only option. Joint replacement, which involves replacing your damaged joint with an artificial one, and joint repair, which involves smoothing or realigning the joint surface, have become relatively common.

If You Suspect You May Have Arthritis…

Don’t accept joint pain as normal. The earlier you diagnose and treat arthritis, the more likely you’ll be able to return to the activities you enjoy. Schedule a complimentary consultation at Natural Healthcare Center. We’ll discuss your history, review your diagnostic imaging, and share our insights at no charge. Let us help you identify the root cause of your health issues and develop a personalized treatment plan to help you feel better, function better and live longer.

Flagship Office

10 West End Court
Long Branch, NJ 07740
P: (732) 222-2219
(732) 229-8863
Monday: 8AM-7PM
Tuesday: 8AM–7PM
Wednesday: 8AM–7PM
Thursday: 9AM–3PM
Friday: 8AM–7PM
Saturday: 9AM–1PM
Sunday: Closed

Middletown Office

9 Leonardville Rd
Middletown, NJ 07748
P: (732) 671-9005
(732) 671-9006
Monday: 9AM–8PM
Tuesday: 10-3PM
Wednesday: 9AM–8PM
Thursday: 9AM–8PM
Friday: 9AM–6PM
Saturday: 10AM–1PM
Sunday: Closed