The most common types of arthritis are Osteoarthritis and rheumatoid. The difference is what is causing the inflammation in the joints. Osteoarthritis is a degenerative disorder while rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune condition. Both diseases affect the joints causing breakage in the cartilage lining of the joints. Eventually and depending on severity and specific patient factors chronic pain can develop. The pain is due to chronic inflammation or even articular bony surfaces rubbing against each other. Osteoarthritis is most common in patients over 65; however, anyone can be diagnosed with osteoarthritis. There are different types of rheumatoid arthritis, but it may affect patients as young as 40 years old or even younger. These conditions affect the knees, hips, hands, and other joints.
In general, Osteoarthritis develops due to normal and natural “wear and tear” of the joints but it can be the result of previous injuries to the affected joint. Additionally, overuse of the joint could also lead to joint decline. Rheumatoid arthritis is not caused by wear and tear. This condition occurs due to an autoimmune disorder in which the body starts to attack the lining that surrounds the joints. Researchers do not know exactly why people develop Rheumatoid arthritis, but it’s believed that there is a genetic component that may make people more susceptible to develop this condition.
One of the most common complaints is stiffness of the affected joint(s), especially in the morning. Patients may also exhibit limited or decreased range of motion in the involved joint. The stiffness could be accompanied by constant aching pain or pain that flares up throughout the day. The joint may also show warmth and swelling. Due to decrease in range of motion, patients may also experience difficulties completing activities of daily living, such as, writing, grabbing objects, walking, cooking and dressing. Due to progression of symptoms, patient may develop weight gain, muscle weakness, and an increased risk of heart disease due to inactivity and lack of aerobic exercise.
The goal in the treatment is to slow down joint degeneration and to adequately manage the chronic pain associated with these conditions. At this point, there is no cure for osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis. We will provide, if indicated, anti-inflammatory medications to reduce the swelling of the joint in order to control the patient’s symptoms. Our specialist physicians also offer joint injections that include nerve blocks, radiofrequency ablation, regenerative therapies and steroid medications targeting the damaged, painful joint. These injections can be repeated if necessary. We will help the patient increase range of motion and strength with the use of a physical therapy protocol or alternative therapies to help relieve pain. In extreme cases, appropriate referral to an orthopedic surgeon would be given to have the joint replaced if the degeneration is severe.