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ARTHRITIS AND JOINT PAIN

 

 

The word ‘arthritis’ means inflammation of the joint, but it is generally used to cover most of the inflammatory conditions that affect muscles, tendons and bones, as well as joints. Swelling, stiffness and joint pain are the usual signs of arthritis, sometimes accompanied by redness and a feeling of warmth.


For most people with arthritis, the pain is managed by a combination of medication, exercise, a healthy diet, and various alternative therapies such as acupuncture and massage.

 

 


Different types of arthritis


There are many different types of arthritis. By far the most common is osteoarthritis (wear and tear of the joints), which affects almost half of all people over the age of 60. Other types include rheumatoid arthritis (an inflammatory disease that affects many body systems as well as joints), gout (usually occurring in the feet and ankles), fibromyalgia (pain in muscles and fibrous tissues) and lupus (an auto-immune disease).

 

 


Other causes of joint pain


Pain in a joint doesn’t always signify arthritis – joints are prone to injury, especially shoulders and knees. Diagnostic imaging such as an x-ray is the only way to be sure, but treatment for the pain is similar in any case. Injuries may also lead to arthritis in the long term

 

 


What are the symptoms of arthritis?

 

  • Pain and stiffness in one or more joints
  • Early morning stiffness in one or more joints
  • Recurring pain, tenderness, or swelling in one or more joints
  • Overall aching, joint stiffness, and tiredness
  • Muscle weakness together with joint stiffness
  • Difficulty doing daily tasks

 

 

When do I need to see the doctor?


You should see your doctor if you have any of the symptoms above for more than two weeks.

 

 

What is the treatment?


There are no known ‘cures’ for arthritis, but there are many ways of treating it. Many people with mild to moderate osteoarthritis find the pain is manageable with a combination of exercise, a healthy diet and intermittent use of analgesics (pain relievers).

 

There is a class of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) called COX-2 inhibitors, which are often prescribed for long-term use in inflammatory arthritis because they are gentler on the stomach than other NSAIDS. However they may not be suitable for all patients and your doctor will advise accordingly.

 

Pain following an injury can be relieved by over-the-counter NSAIDs, but if the pain is severe you may need a prescription for stronger medication. Physiotherapy and massage can also be helpful.

 

Topical creams containing capsaicin (an extract from chilli peppers), can provide effective pain relief if used regularly.  Clinical trial results demonstrate a reduction in pain of up to 50% after 4 weeks¹.

 

 

Are there any natural remedies that relieve joint pain?


Supplements containing glucosamine & chondroitin may be helpful in large joints such as knee osteoarthritis. Whilst safe, it is best to first discuss the use of such medications in conjunction with your doctor. A trial period of an appropriate dose for six to eight weeks is recommended to assess any benefit before taking long term.

 

A specific topical glucosamine, chondroitin and menthol combination has been shown to reduce osteoarthritis pain by up to 50% when used 2-3 times a day².

 

Evidence suggests that fish oil supplements are generally safe to use and some can reduce joint pain and morning stiffness. Fish oil may help to reduce the usage of NSAIDs for people with rheumatoid arthritis. Evening primrose oil also has a mild anti-inflammatory effect³.

 

 

More information

 

Arthritis New Zealand
www.arthritis.org.nz

 

Arthritis Foundation
http://www.arthritis.org

 

American College of Rheumatology
http://www.rheumatology.org

 

eMedicine Health
http://www.emedicinehealth.com/arthritis/article_em.htm

 

 

References:


1. Altman RD et al. Capsaicin Cream 0.025% as Monotherapy for Osteoarthritis: A Double-Blind Study.


2. Cohen, M. et al, Topical Glucosamine Sulfate and Chondroitin Sulfate for OA of the Knee,
    The Journal of Rheumatology 2003;30:3 523-528


3. www.arthritis.org.nz/index.php/Diet.html

 

 

Any medical information in this website is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, it is of a general nature only.  Please consult with a health care professional if you have a specific problem. 

 

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