Manage Your Arthritis

An estimated 58.5 million American adults have some type of arthritis. Arthritis is a general term for conditions that affect the joints, the tissues around the joint, and other connective tissues.

There are more than 100 types of arthritis, the most common of which is osteoarthritis. This occurs mostly in the hands, hips and knees. Other forms of arthritis include gout, rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. Rheumatoid arthritis and lupus can affect multiple organs and cause widespread symptoms. General symptoms of arthritis include pain, aching, stiffness and swelling in or around the joints; however, symptoms can vary depending on the form of arthritis.

“Osteoarthritis is the wear and tear of your joints and the breaking down of cartilage — sort of like the tread on car tires,” said the Medical Center’s Dr. Manuel Torres. “This can be prevented with muscle strengthening, flexibility and mobility. Other types of arthritis can be autoimmune-related and may require a rheumatology consultation. Unfortunately, there is no cure for arthritis and the pain and discomfort can have a negative impact on your mood and quality of life.”

If you have arthritis, learn what type it is and whether your joints are damaged. Pay attention to your joints when sitting and standing and during physical activity. Keep your joints moving daily with gentle stretches that move them through their full range of motion. Know your limits, and balance activity with rest so you don’t overdo it. Frequent repetition of the same movements, like swinging a tennis racquet or golf club, can add to joint pain and swelling.

The holidays frequently involve long periods of car travel. Take periodic breaks from driving and stretch your muscles. Your hips and back will thank you.

Choose the right types of activities: those that build the muscles around the joints but don’t do damage.

Consult your physician or rheumatologist if you find yourself using over-the-counter pain relievers regularly without relief, or if your pain level is changing. Staying ahead of arthritis pain and discomfort, along with lifestyle changes to ease pain, are important parts of managing arthritis.