May is Arthritis Awareness Month
Arthritis is often thought of as a condition that only affects the older population. However arthritis can affect all ages, including children. Although mostly seen in Caucasians, it is also seen across different ethnicity groups. Arthritis is a major health problem and leads to millions of doctor visits each year. In some cases, it can become severe, making it difficult to move and perform daily tasks. This can lead to other health problems like depression, obesity, difficulty sleeping, heart disease and diabetes.
Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common form of arthritis and affects 27 million Americans. It is a progressive disease characterized by the breakdown of joint cartilage, which normally helps protect our joints. This breakdown of cartilage can be caused by overuse of joints, being overweight, a history of a joint injury, genetics, and age. As bones start to rub against each other it can lead to stiffness, pain, and loss of movement. OA is usually seen in the hips, knees, and lower back.
What are your options?
Although there is not a cure for arthritis, there are several things you can do to control the condition and improve your quality of life.
- Exercise, both endurance and resistance types, can lead to less stiffness and stronger muscles and joints. Walking, cycling, swimming, water aerobics, yoga, and pilates are different exercises that have provided benefits.
- Weight loss through diet and exercise decreases the amount of stress and pressure that is placed on the joints, which can lead to less damage.
- Physical therapy helps improve strength and flexibility.
- In cases where daily activities are severely hindered, surgery is an option to replace damaged joints, usually the hips and knees.
Medications are often used to relieve arthritis symptoms and there are several treatment options available over-the-counter (OTC).
- Guidelines recommend starting with acetaminophen (Tylenol ®), as it is an effective pain reliever and safe in most people.
- Anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen (Advil®, Motrin®) or naproxen (Aleve®) are also effective at reducing pain and inflammation, but they come with health risks with long-term use, including stomach bleeding and increased risk for heart attack.
- Creams, ointments, patches, and sprays are available to apply to the area of pain and can contain capsaicin, salicylates (similar to aspirin), camphor, menthol, or eucalyptus.
- Glucosamine and chondroitin are supplements that are used to help restore cartilage in the joints.
- If OTC products do not help control your arthritis, it may be time to speak to your health care provider and consider other treatments like steroid injections (decrease inflammation) or hyaluronic acid injections (replace lost joint fluid) or stronger pain medication available only by prescriptions.
- Compounded pain medications are also available for treating arthritis pain and are an option if traditional treatments are ineffective or have side effects. Cass St Pharmacy Gundersen Health System now offers compounding! Speak to your doctor or pharmacist about compounding opportunities.
Cass St Pharmacy Gundersen Health System has a wide variety of OTC products to help with your arthritis symptoms. It is important to speak to one of our pharmacists before choosing a product to ensure that it is a safe and appropriate option for you.