Stiffness and Immobility: Understanding Arthritis and Arthritis Symptoms
Many of us go through the middle age years of our life fearing some type of catastrophic or life-threatening disease or illness that will lower our quality of life or worse. Fortunately, that doesn’t come to pass for the vast majority of us. However, if there’s one undesirable ailment that does take away from quality of life and becomes a reality for a LOT of us, it’s arthritis. Arthritis symptoms are hard to ignore, as we all rely on our joints to continue to bend and flex in order to make natural use of our hands, wrists, arms, feet, and so on.
It’s safe to say that anyone over the age of 55 or so won’t need to be informed about what is arthritis. Younger folks may not be familiar with the term, however, or what causes arthritis. It’s a subject worth discussing in detail, as most people will experience the stiffness and immobility of joints that characterizes arthritis. The good news? Arthritis medication is very effective for relieving arthritis symptoms these days.
What is Arthritis?
Everyone is familiar with the basic mechanics of how knees, elbows, wrists, and ankles work. The bending that is of paramount importance to the function of these body parts is made possible because of their joints – body structure assemblies where two rigid and immobile components (in this case, bones) come together, but each one is still able to move freely independent of the other.
Arthritis is when one or more of these joints in the human body become inflamed. Depending on the extent of the inflammation, an arthritis sufferer may experience arthritis symptoms as mild as discomfort when moving limbs or other body parts connected to these joints, or as severe as complete stiffness and immobility that prevents them from moving the joint at all.
What Causes Arthritis?
To answer what’s at the root of a person’s arthritis symptoms, we need to first look at cartilage. Cartilage is a solid yet flexible connective tissue found in your joints. Its primary function is to protect the joints by absorbing the pressure and shock that’s generated every time the joint moves as it’s intended to. As we age, the cartilage in our joints degenerates and there’s less to effectively absorb and redistribute those pressures and shocks.
Natural and age-related body degeneration processes are not the only cause of arthritis symptoms. Infection or injury to the joints can speed up the development of arthritis, and certain autoimmune disorders can inhibit the healthy production of synovium, a soft tissue in the joints that produces synovial fluid that nourishes cartilage and provides lubrication for the joint. Arthritis medication is particularly effective for protecting the synovium when the person has arthritis from autoimmune disorder sources.
Lastly, and as is the case with so many health conditions – people can be born with a genetic predisposition to developing arthritis. It definitely can ‘run in the family’, as the expression goes.
Types of Arthritis
Some people may be surprised to learn that there are actually more than 100 different types of arthritis. The two most common types of arthritis are also the two most well known, and that’s osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Of course we won’t cover all the other types of arthritis, but some of the relatively well-known ones will be gout, fibromyalgia, and MCTD (mixed connective tissue disease) and the different arthritis symptoms that come with them.
Osteoarthritis is primarily attributable to the wear and tear on the joints that comes with age. Being susceptible to osteoarthritis is something you can inherit from either of your parents. As such it’s not only one of the more common types of arthritis but it’s also the one that many people won’t be able to avoid if they’ve got the genes for it.
Rheumatoid arthritis is very different, as it’s actually an autoimmune disorder where the body’s immune system attacks the tissues of the body. In particular, it attacks the synovium discussed above and by doing so prevents them from producing the synovial fluid the joint cannot do without if it’s going to function properly.
If left untreated, rheumatoid arthritis can lead to degeneration in the bone and cartilage of the joint to the extent that the joint no longer functions at all. Getting treatment for rheumatoid arthritis and taking arthritis medication is very important once you’ve received a diagnosis of it.
We’ve already made it very clear that the foremost arthritis symptoms experienced by sufferers are joint pain and stiffness. Other arthritis symptoms can include:
- Decreased range of motion
- Movement difficulties
- Difficult doing everyday or workplace tasks, and particular for those who primarily work with their hands
NSAID arthritis medication can be very effective for relieving swelling, pain, and stiffness that are primary arthritis symptoms.
Arthritis Treatment and Arthritis Medication
While it’s true that the best way to treat arthritis is to take arthritis medication as prescribed by your physician, the effectiveness of the arthritis medication will be increased significantly if you also participate in physical therapy and make diet / lifestyle choices that will reduce inflammation of the joints and / or lower the amount of strain being placed on them.
Standard arthritis medications are painkillers, non-steroidal anti-inflammatories like Celebrex (celecoxib) and Mobic (meloxicam), and biologic medications. For rheumatoid arthritis, anti-rheumatic drugs like Arava (leflunomide) are usually what’s prescribed to stop or slow the inflammation.
As regards physical therapy for arthritis, a physiotherapist will be able to teach you how to do exercises that isolate the affected joints and prevent or slow the furthered development of immobility. The pain of arthritis can be lessened with acupuncture, massage, or even yoga, and pairing these practices with your arthritis medication is definitely a good idea.
Last not but least, maintaining a healthy body weight can do wonders for relieving arthritis, and especially so if done in conjunction with arthritis medication. This is particularly true if you’re experiencing it in your knees, hips, or ankles.