May 12, 2021
And other facts about arthritis you should know
If you suffer from arthritis, you aren’t alone. More than 54 million adults in the United States live with doctor-diagnosed arthritis. The actual total of those who experience it could be almost double that number since most people don’t seek treatment until the pain is severe. In addition to the millions of adults suffering from it, nearly 300,000 children live with it, too.
By these estimates, more than 1 in 4 U.S. adults has some form of doctor-diagnosed arthritis. The estimate is even higher in rural areas where specialized healthcare access can be limited. The conservative estimate in those areas is 1 in 3 adults. In fact, it’s the top cause of disability in the United States. (Arthritis Foundation, 2020)
Orthopedics and Rheumatology
Arthritis can be treated by both orthopedists and rheumatologists.
- Orthopedists are surgeons who treat bone and joint diseases and injuries, such as arthritis, osteoarthritis and body trauma. They use varying care plan approaches depending on each patient’s unique situation — from medication to minimally invasive treatment and surgery.
- Rheumatologists are internal medicine physicians who focus on autoimmune conditions and non-surgical treatment of diseases like arthritis.
Could You Have Arthritis?
With any joint pain, there’s a chance arthritis could be the cause. Perhaps surprisingly, arthritis includes more than 100 types of joint-related diseases. The reasons can be varied but generally the sources include genetic predisposition, injury or illness that can lead to joint problems, or repetitive and/or stressful movements over time.
Prevention, as Always, is Key
You can’t fix genetics, and you also can’t change an injury or illness. You can, however, be aware of your risk factors and lead a healthy lifestyle to mitigate its potential effects.
If you believe your joint pain could be related to arthritis, early detection and putting a treatment plan in place are essential to slow progression of the disease and managing your pain. Your healthcare team can work together to help identify if you have arthritis and manage it if you do.
Diagnostic tests and physical exams are part of determining the root cause of your pain. Your Beacon physician will guide the development of an individualized care plan unique to your needs.
How is Arthritis Treated?
We, as orthopedists, look at arthritis treatment on three different levels: conservative, moderate, and surgery as the final option. We turn to surgery when your arthritis is no longer manageable with therapeutic and minimally invasive pain-management approaches.
Conservative: the sooner you seek medical attention, the longer conservative methods like the following have the potential to be effective. Treatments include:
- Behavior modification
- Physical therapy
Moderate: If and when conservative measures aren’t able to help maintain your quality of life, there are moderate, minimally invasive treatments that can help manage pain, while still avoiding surgery. Those methods can include:
- Assistive devices
- Cortisone injections
- Hyaluronic acid injections
- Occupational therapy
Surgery: When all other approaches are failing, joint replacement surgery is typically the next recommendation. It is the only means currently available that can address and eliminate arthritis completely.
When It’s Time to See a Doctor for Arthritis Pain
At-home treatment that doesn’t improve your condition after a week
If you have minor ache and pain flare-ups, ice and heat, over-the-counter pain relievers and periods of rest can help. The Arthritis Foundation further suggests acupuncture, massage therapy, tai chi and yoga as a few options to help relieve arthritis pain. When you don’t notice improvements in your joint pain after a week of treating it with those methods, it’s time to see a doctor.
One of your joints goes rogue
You probably know your baseline of pain pretty well — as well as your body’s norms. If you start waking up with a swollen knee, wrist or other isolated joint, it may be cause for concern, and you should contact your doctor.
Rest doesn’t improve the pain
If you’ve been at rest or started resting for extended periods of time after joint pain and it doesn’t help, it’s time to see a doctor about starting or changing treatment.
Beacon Specialists are at the Ready
If you’d like to learn more about a pain that’s been keeping you from living your best quality of life, we’d love to help. We even have same-day appointments available. Schedule your appointment now to experience the Beacon difference.