How Does Arthritis Affect The Body?
At Greater Austin Pain Center, one of our areas of expertise is dealing with arthritic joints. Arthritis is actually a term for a group of over 100 diseases that affects the muscular and skeletal systems, causing joint pain, stiffness, immobility, and swelling. It alters joint cartilage – the tough, shock-absorbing material that covers the ends of many of our bones. This cartilage forms a smooth surface and allows the bones in our joints to glide easily during motion. However, arthritis causes the cartilage to wear away. Loss of this protective lining can cause painful bone-on-bone rubbing.
In addition to the cartilage that covers the ends of certain bones, there is also a membrane called synovium that lines joints. The synovium secretes a thick liquid called synovial fluid, which acts as a cushion and lubricant between the joints, reducing friction between bones and preventing wear and tear. Synovial fluid is also present in our ligaments, the strong tissue that connect our bones and provide stability.
Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis, affecting some 21 million Americans alone. Cartilage degradation leads to bones making contact with each other, resulting in abnormal bone growths called osteophytes, commonly known as bone spurs. These bone spurs result in pain, swelling, and limited movement. Osteoarthritis is often most painful in the weight-bearing joints, including the spine, hip, and knee.
Rheumatoid arthritis is another serious and disabling type of arthritis. It is a long-lasting autoimmune disease that causes inflammation of the synovium, as well as swelling and degradation of the joints. Pain, stiffness, and swelling are usually ongoing symptoms, even during rest. Rheumatoid arthritis most commonly occurs in the hand and foot joints, but it can also develop in the larger joints like the hip, knees, and elbows.
- Regular wear and tear
- Inflammatory disease
- Inflammation of joints
- Difficulty moving
- Non-surgical methods (medications, rest)
- Physical therapy
- Joint injections (knee, hip, shoulder, ankle, sacroiliac joint)
- Platelet rich plasma
Arthritis Treatment in Austin, Kyle, Dripping Springs
Most cases of arthritis can be treated with non-surgical methods. Temporary joint rest and pain relievers (over-the-counter or prescription) are sometimes all that are needed. If your symptoms do not improve significantly with these medications, a cortisone injection may be successful in reducing inflammation and pain.
Viscosupplementation injections are an option for arthritis, but are currently only FDA-approved for use in the knee. These injections deliver hyaluronic acid, a natural substance found in synovial fluid, into the knee joint. Studies are underway to test its usefulness in other joints.
Most cases of arthritis can be treated with non-surgical methods.
Greater Austin Pain Center works closely with occupational/physical therapists who can help you strengthen the muscles surrounding problem areas, adding joint stability and relieving pain. Aquatic therapy in a heated pool can potentially be recommended. Your therapists may also apply heat to treat stiffness, and ice to decrease pain. They may also recommend splints, walkers, or canes to help relieve stress on your joints. Therapists will instruct you on how to get through daily activities, such as housework and meal preparation, in a manner that puts less stress on your joints.
When administered by a trained professional, acupuncture can be a time-tested treatment for pain. Very fine needles are strategically placed around the body to block or interrupt pain pathways. Additionally, exercise regimes such as yoga, pilates, and tai chi can improve arthritis pain in many ways. Physically, the stretching and strengthening provided by these programs has a direct positive effect for many with arthritis.
Austin Arthritis and Joint Pain Doctors
Greater Austin Pain Center specialists can discuss appropriate pain management options with you to decide what is best. There are several types of treatments for arthritis and joint pain.
Lubricating medication is injected into a joint, most commonly the knees.
Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) Injections
Non-operative therapy, injected into injured or painful area.
Injections to administer local anesthetic and/or steroids to reduce swelling and inflammation.
Am I At Risk?
If you have been consistently experiencing painful inflammation of the joints, please contact the Greater Austin Pain Center. We look forward to scheduling an appointment with you, or simply just answering your questions about arthritis. There are many treatment options, and we’ll make sure you’re set up with the right one.