Striking one of every five adults and 300,000 children, arthritis is the leading cause of disability in the United States.

Do You Have Arthritis?

How do you know if your inflammation and stiffness means you have arthritis? There are four important signs that should prompt you to talk to a health care provider.  

Pain. Pain from arthritis can be constant, or it may come and go. It may also occur when at rest or while moving. Pain may be in one part of the body or in many different parts.Swelling. Some types of arthritis cause the skin over the affected joint to become red and swollen, feeling warm to the touch.

Swelling that lasts for three days or longer or occurs more than three times a month should prompt a visit to the doctor.Stiffness. This is a classic arthritis symptom, especially when waking up in the morning or after sitting for a long period of time.

Morning stiffness that lasts longer than an hour is a good reason to suspect arthritis.

Difficulty moving a joint.

It is important to address the affected areas before more serious problems or long lasting damage occurs.

Before visiting the doctor, keep track of your symptoms for a few weeks, noting what is swollen and stiff, when, for how long, and what helps ease the symptoms.

If the doctor suspects arthritis, they will perform tests to check the range of motion in your joints. The doctor may also check passive range of motion by moving the joint for you.

Treatment Options

The first approach to treatment is to try more conservative methods. Rest allows the injured tissues to heal themselves. Applying heat or cold to affected joints is one of the easiest ways to relieve arthritis pain and stiffness on a short-term basis. Heat relaxes muscles and increases circulation in specific areas. Some examples of heat are hot packs, heating pads, heated pools and warm showers.

Cold reduces swelling and numbs the nerves that detect pain. Some examples of cold are ice packs or cold packs such as frozen vegetables.

You can decide whether warm or cold works best for you by trying them both. Do what is most comfortable because your comfort plays an important role in keeping your pain at a low level.

Neither heat nor cold should be applied for more than 20 minutes, and skin should be allowed to return to its normal temperature between applications. It’s also always a good idea to cover the object you’re using with a towel to help protect your skin.

Your physician may suggest a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug or acetaminophen, or you may require corticosteroid injections.

Acetaminophen is an aspirin-free pain reliever. It helps reduce pain but has little effect on inflammation. Many healthcare providers consider aspirin-free pain relievers the preferred first choice in treating mild to moderate arthritis.

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) help reduce both pain and joint swelling. NSAIDS may cause stomach problems and other complications. Some are available only by prescription. Some examples are Aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen sodium.

Physical therapy can provide exercises designed to preserve the strength and use of your joints, as well as in the muscles surrounding the affected joints.

Surgery should be addressed if these methods do not help, or if the case is more severe. The type of surgery depends on which joints in the body are involved.

With more than 30 years of experience and expertise, Dr. Michael Sutton welcomes new patients and looks forward to providing them with the exceptional orthopedic care they deserve. Dr. Sutton is a board certified orthopedic surgeon at McLeod Orthopaedics Dillon, located at 705 N. 8th Ave., Suite 1B, Dillon, on the McLeod Medical Center Dillon campus. To make an appointment, please call 843-487-1588.