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With a whole generation of baby boomers and fitness fanatics creeping into their twilight years, diseases that reflect the wear and tear of a crazy, active youth are skyrocketing. Arthritis, for example, is an extremely prevalent condition, with approximately 47 million people in the United States suffering from some form of arthritis or chronic joint symptoms. Osteoarthritis, degeneration of the bony surfaces within a joint, affects around 21 million adults (more than 50% of whom are over 65), while rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disease, afflicts over 2 million people.
While arthritis pain is by no means a given as you get older, trauma inflicted on joints over time can pretty much guarantee some degree of stiffness, swelling, pain, or degeneration as the years pass. If efforts such as medication, supplements, accupuncture, therapeutic exercise, and lifestyle changes fail to ease arthritis pain, joint replacement surgery (known as arthroplasty) is the medical solution of choice. In an arthroplasty, the worn-down joint surfaces are removed and replaced with plastic or metal prostheses. Due to the availability of innovative surgical techniques and the rise of aging, active Americans, the number of joint replacement surgeries performed has increased tremendously in the last decade. From 1997 to 2005, over 500,000 total knee replacement surgeries and nearly 300,000 hip replacement surgeries were performed, and experts estimate that this number will continue to rise.
With so many over-the-counter remedies for treating or helping with the prevention of osteoarthritis on the market, where does a consumer begin? And not only that, are those miracle remedies really effective?
The most popular supplements advertised for prevention and relief of arthritis and its associated symptoms contain a combination of glucosamine and chondroitin. These supplements are believed to maintain existing cartilage within a joint and stimulate cartilage growth, the goal being to ease arthritis pain and essentially slow the progression of degeneration. Glucosamine is the substance that gives cartilage its strength and rigidity; in theory, ingesting it will toughen yours up. Chondroitin sulfate is also an important structural component of cartilage, giving it the properties that resist compression. The two combined can benefit joint health, but its anyone's guess which exact combination is the best. It's wise to consult your physician before beginning this non-traditional course of treatment.
Other self-help arthritis pain treatment and prevention approaches involve supplementing with flax seed, which is loaded with omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids have long been praised for their positive affect on symptoms of inflammation. Another alternative treatment approach is acupuncture, a practice involving the insertion of thin, filament-like needles at specific locations in the body. Acupuncture is aimed at restoring balance and bringing healing properties to the targeted area. Dietary changes aimed at keeping body weight at a manageable level and minimizing fluid retention (low sodium and high fruit and vegetable content, for example), can be beneficial in the effort to reduce arthritis pain as well.
Since osteoarthritis is a chronic, degenerative condition, achieving relief from arthritis pain involves patience and persistence. Once the damage is done to a joint, nothing short of surgical replacement is going to change that. Minimizing further joint trauma by avoiding movements and activities that apply stress to the joint is essential.
Swelling is a sign of inflammation within a joint, and also the arbiter of pain and dysfunction for someone with arthritis. Keeping inflammation to a minimum will help preserve the remaining joint surface as well as ease arthritis pain. For example, someone with an arthritic knee should avoid impact-producing activities like jogging or basketball, while an individual whose shoulder has signs of degenerative arthritis may want to avoid repetitive overhead motions such as lap swimming. When performing weight-bearing activities, wearing well-cushioned athletic shoes is highly recommended for anyone who has arthritic changes in their spine or lower body joints.
Maintaining the strength and pliability of the tissues that surround and support the affected joints is another means of achieving arthritic pain relief. A conservative, comprehensive strength program designed by a qualified medical professional such as a licensed physical therapist or certified athletic trainer will balance and strengthen the muscles around the affected area, which in turn helps disperse stress away from the joint. A program of gentle stretching is also effective, since muscles that are too tight compress the joints they cross and act to pull the bony surfaces together more tightly.
While there are many medications to provide pain relief for arthritis, one of the easiest ways to treat it--or prevent it altogether--is to stay active and fit.
The wrist is the most common site in the body for arthritis pain. A prominent result of this sort of arthritis is carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS), which occurs as a result of nerve problems. The carpal tunnel is a passageway located in the wrist that is essential to wrist function, consisting of arched bones and ligaments that allow the hands, fingers, and forearm muscles to work in unison. In CTS, the median nerve located in the passageway becomes pinched due to swelling of the wrist structure. As this nerve is pinched, arthritis symptoms of numbness, tingling, and pain may occur and radiate among the wrist and forearm. The cause of this condition is often unknown, but studies show that repetitive wrist strain induced by excessive use is a recurring cause in cases of carpal tunnel.
Symptoms of CTS include pain, numbness, and tingling in the wrist joint and adjacent muscles. Symptoms can sometimes extend as far as the shoulder, and will increase as the condition worsens.
In severe cases, CTS can result in permanent pain after ligaments have been continually constricted. To prevent CTS from reaching this stage, it is imperative that you receive professional evaluation from an accredited doctor.
When it comes to getting older, many people think that arthritis comes with the territory. After all, don't we eventually pay the price for all the crazy things we did in our youth? The answer is a resounding NO!
There are two basic types of arthritis. Osteoarthiritis, one of the most common disorders around, involves a degeneration of the bones in one or more of your joints. Contrary to popular belief, arthritic joints are not a normal function of age. Damage to the cartilage that cushions the surface within a joint is how it begins. Once that tissue is damaged, it becomes inflamed, which causes further damage, swelling, and pain. Over time, the cartilage loses its elasticity, thins, and becomes rough and brittle. The cycle of degeneration progresses until the bone surfaces wear down from rubbing against one another.
Rheumatoid arthritis, by comparison, is an autoimmune disease in which your immune system selectively attacks the synovium lining the bony surfaces of the joints. The joints, which are usually affected symmetrically (both hands or wrists, for example), become chronically inflamed, swollen, deformed, and in pain. Most people who suffer from rheumatoid arthritis have a genetic susceptibility to the virus that causes it.