Stiffness and pain in your joints can affect your daily life. Maybe you struggle to type on the computer without pain. Or maybe arthritic inflammation in your knees makes it too painful to exercise or play with your kids.
The number of Americans diagnosed with arthritis is projected to reach 78.4 million (that's 26 percent of the population) by 2040, according to the United States Bone and Joint Initiative. Talking to your doctor will help you determine the cause of your arthritis, which type you suffer from, and what to do about it. Arthritis symptoms can range from mildly annoying to debilitating. Proper diagnosis is essential to finding the best treatment option for you.
Common Arthritis Symptoms
Arthritis is the swelling or tenderness of your joints. When your joints swell, pressure and inflammation cause pain that only worsens with activity and flexing or stretching. The two most common forms of arthritis are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, and they cause similar symptoms.
The most common signs of arthritis include:
- Chronic joint pain
- Decreased range of motion
Limitations Due to Arthritis Symptoms
Patients sometimes delay medical diagnosis and treatment until their arthritis symptoms become too excruciating for daily activities. Recent statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that one in 25 adults of working age have experienced on-the-job limitations because of their arthritis. Having arthritis also increases the risk of falls.
Osteoarthritis pain stems from wear-and-tear on your joints. This can be exacerbated by physical labor. Make an appointment with the doctor to discuss the best strategy and movements to avoid more wear-and-tear on painful joints.
Rheumatoid arthritis pain will also continue to worsen without treatment. Though rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease—not caused by repetitive motions or other work conditions—it can still limit your ability to work without pain.
When arthritis affects weight-bearing joints like knees or ankles, the risk for workplace limitations increases. Pain can vary from day to day, so keep track of your arthritis symptoms at work and at home to help your doctor determine the best treatment for you and your lifestyle.
Relieving Arthritis Symptoms
Though severe arthritis might require prescription medications, physical therapy, or even surgery, you can take steps to relieve mild arthritis symptoms at home.
- Over-the-counter painkillers. Tylenol could relieve pain and help you accomplish everyday tasks, but it will not alleviate inflammation.
- Over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). NSAIDs such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) and naproxen (Aleve) will help calm inflamed joints.
- Menthol creams. Cooling creams do not relieve the arthritis itself, but rubbing them on inflamed joints can create a soothing sensation.
Home treatments can provide day-to-day relief. But ultimately, it's best to see a doctor when your arthritis symptoms start interfering with everyday life and work.
If your arthritis symptoms are chronic and diminishing your quality of life, click here to read more about the range of options for treating arthritis pain. You can also make an appointment with a board-certified orthopedics doctor to discuss treatment for your arthritis symptoms.