What is joint pain/arthritis?
Arthritis literally means “inflammation of the joint” and it can be present in almost every part of the body, from the shoulder all the way down to the smallest joint of the toe. Joints contain intricate systems of cartilage, bone, muscle and connective tissue, all of which can gradually weaken over time or be damaged by acute injury. While there are more than one hundred known types of arthritis, the three most common forms are osteoarthritis, which is by far the most prevalent; rheumatoid arthritis, which is caused by the body’s own immune system generated chronic inflammatory responses in the joints; and post-traumatic arthritis, which is caused by the lingering damage for devastating, acute injuries.
What causes joint pain/arthritis?
Arthritis describes any disease process which leads to cartilage loss. Cartilage serves a vital role in the joints of the body, as it “cushions” the space and prevents bone-on-bone contact. Through the process of arthritis, cartilage weakens and disappears, ultimately leading to bone-on-bone contact, which is incredibly painful. There are a variety of factors that can contribute to an individual developing arthritis, but the most common causes are the gradual wear-and-tear of the aging process, traumatic injury, and abnormal immune responses. Some common risk factors that can increase one’s risk of developing the condition are a genetic predisposition, obesity, previous injury to a joint, and weak or underdeveloped muscles supporting a joint.
Joint pain/arthritis symptoms
The most common symptom of arthritis is pain, stiffness and swelling in the affected joint, as well as weakness in the joint and the surrounding muscles. The joint may also feel warm to the touch and appear slightly red or splotchy, especially if you are suffering from a severe form of arthritis. Symptoms can come and go or remain constant and can vary in severity from mild to unbearable.
Many of the most common causes of arthritis—think age, family history or genetics and gender—are out of our control. However, there are certain things that can be done to help lower your risk of developing this painful condition. Taking steps to maintain a healthy weight, eat a well-rounded diet rich in healthy fats, set and keep an exercise regimen as approved by your physician, and protecting your body during day-to-day activities can all help prevent your joints from developing arthritis. It is also highly advisable to avoid smoking and heavy alcohol consumption, as these have been shown to be risk factors for developing certain types of arthritis.
If you suspect your joint pain may be caused by arthritis, the first step towards diagnosis is scheduling an appointment with a physician whose practice is focused on treating joint pain and arthritis. At the time of your appointment, they will complete a full review of your individual and family medical history; conduct a thorough physical examination, including palpation and movement and strength tests; and order and review any necessary diagnostic tests, such as X-Ray, MRI or CT scans. The results of these examinations and diagnostic tests will help your physician pinpoint the cause of your pain and develop a treatment plan aimed at eliminating it.
Why Choose Pain Consultants?
If you are experiencing the signs and symptoms of arthritis, Pain Consultants of West Florida can help alleviate your pain and get your life back on track. We offer a wide variety of treatment options for joint pain and arthritis, including:
- Physical Therapy – a combination of stretching, strengthening and cardiovascular exercises aimed at strengthening the muscles around the affected joint, which can help relieve pain and stabilize the joint.
- TENS unit – stands for transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation and uses low-dose electrical currents, delivered through pads (electrodes) placed directly on the skin above the site of injury, to stimulate nerves and eliminate the sensation of pain.
- Topical creams – Certain topical creams, particularly those that contain capsaicin, menthol or salicylates, can help provide short-term but immediate relief for arthritis pain.
- Bracing – certain braces can help relieve pain in arthritic joints by removing some of the bone-on-bone pressure in the joint space.
- Hyalgan knee injections – an injection containing hyaluronate, a natural substance that is found in the synovial fluid that lubricates joints. Replacing this fluid through a Hyalgan injection can help reduce pain and inflammation in an arthritic joint.
- Platelet-rich plasma therapy (PRP therapy) – uses a form of the patient’s own blood, which has been refined to contain a high concentration of cells called platelets. Platelets contain substances called growth factors that reduce pain and inflammation and enhance the body’s ability to heal itself.
- Knee radiofrequency ablations – a cutting-edge procedure that uses radio waves to generate heat and burn (or ablate) nerve tissue, reducing their ability to convey nerve signals.