While pain is an unpleasant sensation, it plays a vital role in the body’s defense system. Without pain, we wouldn’t know if we have been injured, are sick, or if we have a life-threatening illness. Pain, however, can occur without an obvious cause or can be a symptom of chronic disease such as Arthritis.
What Causes Pain?
Pain can result from two different mechanisms known as Nociceptive or Neuropathic.
Nociceptive pain is caused by a stimulus and is the major cause of acute pain which can last from a few seconds to weeks at a time. This form of pain disappears after the stimulus is removed or the injury healed.
In neuropathic pain, nerve damage self-generates pain signals even in the absence of a stimulus. It is a common cause of chronic pain, which generally exceeds three months.
Arthritis is the most common form of chronic pain and it is most notably marked by joint inflammation. Arthritis is a term used for a range of conditions that affects the joints and surrounding tissues. It can affect one or several joints and is more prevalent among seniors. Other symptoms of arthritis include joint swelling, stiffness, and tenderness.
About 54 million people in the US are living with some form of arthritis and it is the most common cause of disability among adults. Joints have connective tissues which protect them by absorbing shock and pressure. Arthritis pain sets in when this layer of protection is inflamed or damaged.
Types of Arthritis
There are many forms of Arthritis, some of which we have outlined below:
Also known as degenerative joint disease, it is the most common form of arthritis. Osteoarthritis occurs due to the degeneration of cartilage tissue. The cartilage helps protect joints and prevents friction between adjoining bones. Severe pain occurs when the cartilage is damaged.
Cartilage normally wears out with age, and as such, osteoarthritis pain becomes more severe as one ages. In addition, obesity increases the risk of arthritis by about 30 percent by placing excessive stress on joints. Family history also contributes to the disorder.
Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)
Rheumatoid Arthritis is an autoimmune disease which arises spontaneously with no known cause. It occurs when the body’s immune system attacks the connective tissues surrounding the joint which leads to inflammation and irritation.
RA develops mostly between the ages of 40 to 60 and it is more common among women. The joints in fingers, wrists, and hands, are most affected by the disease.
There is no cure for arthritis, but medical intervention can help reduce the pain and prevent further damage to the joints.
Arthritis treatment may involve a combination of methods including:
Analgesics such as acetaminophen and NSAIDS such as aspirin are used to manage mild arthritis pain. Doctors may also prescribe menthol creams which block pain signals from the joints.
Doctors may also recommend a replacement surgery for damaged joints in the knees and hips. In severe cases of arthritis pain, joint fusion surgery may be performed on the fingers and wrists.
In addition to medical treatment, there are some lifestyle changes that can help patients better cope with symptoms of arthritis. These changes can include:
Foods such as fish, nuts, beans, whole grains, and olive oil are good for joint health and can be easily added to most nutrition plans.
Arthritis pain can be managed through regular exercise, especially regimens designed by your healthcare provider or physical therapist. An effective exercise must include range-of-motion activities to maintain joint flexibility. These activities may include swimming, walking, or yoga.
Hot and cold treatments
Severe joint pain can be relieved by applying cold packs to the affected area. The packs help to numb the pain and are useful for coping with symptom flare-ups.
Heat treatments can help reduce stiffness due to arthritis. When a heat source, such as a heating pad or moist heat, is applied to stiff areas, they help relax muscles making joint movement easier.