5 Things You Should Know About Arthritis

Don’t hesitate to seek the care of a provider if develop symptoms

By Ernst Lamothe Jr.

Arthritis has an immense level of impact on people of all age groups.
It affects the joints and tissues which can cause severe pain and swelling. Arthritis is a progressive disorder, which means that it typically starts gradually and gets worse with time.

“Once your cartilage starts to wear and you lose that protective layer, you begin getting bone on bone. And once you hit bone on bone, you start feeling extreme pain and limited mobility begins,” said physician K. Keely Boyle, clinical assistant professor of orthopedics at the University at Buffalo who practices at UBMD Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine.

Boyle talks about five aspects of arthritis.

1. Hip joint arthritis
The hip joint consists of the ball-shaped end of the thigh bone which fits into the hip socket. The inside of the ball-and-socket joint is lined with smooth cartilage to help the joint move easily. If this smooth cartilage wears away, the remaining rough surfaces of the ball-and-socket grind against each other.

“While everyone is a little different, many people complain about the intense pain that happens in the hip area when arthritis sets in,” said Boyle. “Patients can see mobility decrease when putting on their shoes and trying to tie them up as well as experiencing pain getting in and out of their cars.”

2. Knee arthritis
Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis, affecting millions of people worldwide. It occurs when the protective cartilage that cushions the ends of the bones wears down over time. It can affect various areas of the knee joint.

“You hear people say they have a hard time going up and down the stairs. They feel a sharp and stabbing pain in their knees that is a deep ache,” said Boyle. “It doesn’t go away for some people and it can feel worse and flare up in the morning when they take their first few steps and can disrupt their sleep.”

3. Causes
Arthritis can be a complicated condition that has many factors. Experts say both environmental, controllable and uncontrollable factors lead to the problem.

Smoking rates in the U.S. have declined in recent decades. However, about 15.5% of the population, or about 37.8 million adults, smoke cigarettes according to the latest numbers from the Centers for Disease Control. And with the popularity of e-cigarettes, which are battery-operated devices that people use to inhale an aerosol that typically contains nicotine, the issue is not going away.

Smoking is an issue that leads to disease and disability and harms nearly every organ of the body and is the leading cause of preventable death.

“One of the worst things you can do for your joints is smoke,” said Boyle. She also said what you chose to fuel your body can affect your bones. “I tell people that some of your medical conditions can be attributed to eating too many pre-packaged processed foods along with sugar which is a huge contributor to arthritis.”

She suggests eating anti-inflammatory foods such as lean proteins, fruits, nuts, leafy greens, whole grains and good fats such as avocado.

4. Treatment
With arthritis, many orthopedic doctors treat the condition nonsurgically first, using braces for knee and hip problems. The brace helps stabilize the joint, especially for those who experience falls.

There are also ways to strengthen core and back muscles to help with the joints.

“The whole point is to decrease inflammation which can also be done with anti-inflammatory pills such as Advil and ibuprofen,” said Boyle.

Experts also suggest low-impact exercise activities such as biking, swimming and gentle yoga.

“You don’t want to do anything that involves high-impact on your joints or twisting. I know a lot of my patients who are golfers have flare ups with their arthritis because of that twisting motion,” said Boyle.

She said the research is still too light for her to recommend stem cell injections. Stem cells are the body’s raw materials, which are cells from which all other cells with specialized functions are generated. Many times insurance doesn’t cover stem cell injections.

Platelet-rich plasma therapy uses injections of a concentration of a patient’s own platelets to accelerate the healing of injured tendons, ligaments, muscles and joints. In this way, PRP injections use each individual patient’s own healing system to improve musculoskeletal problems.

“These procedures have been known to work with relatively good results. It is often the first line of defense for knee issues after braces,” said Boyle.

Another way to prevent bone and joint issues is regular exercise. Exercise is the easiest way to build muscle mass, increase strength, and improve balance and coordination.

“Getting an exercise routine tailored to fit personal health problems is the best way to improve your bones,” said Boyle. “Sedentary older people are more likely to have bone and joint issues compared to active older adults.”

5. Myths
Whether it is home remedies, inaccurate internet fixes or just plain personal opinions, there remains many myths about how to turn back the clock on arthritis. Some think that it will simply get better on its own which incorrectly has caused many patients to delay needed joint replacement surgery where they have lived in pain for years unnecessarily.

“People come to my office and they tell me that they believe cartilage can heal itself. Arthritis might get better through nonsurgical options and supplements; but you cannot regrow cartilage,” said Boyle. “Science has not evolved to that level yet. If anything, it will get worse without intervention to the point where you may need joint replacement.”

Another myth is that arthritis is a senior citizen condition, which could not be farther from the truth.

“It is not only a 60-year old disease at all. We are seeing more younger patients with problems with their joints,” said Boyle. “You have men and women in their 30s and 40s who have what we call bone death, which is the deterioration of the bones because of lack of blood supply to the area. It can lead to arthritis in the joint.”

Featured Image: Physician K. Keely Boyle is a clinical assistant professor of orthopedics at the University at Buffalo who practices at UBMD Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine.