Do I Have Arthritis?

This is the question everyone older than forty worries about and no one under 40 thinks they could possibly have. The problem with arthritis is that it is an irreversible disease process that often progresses and gets worse.

What is arthritis? Arthritis is simply the damage to cartilage in a joint. The cartilage is the smooth white end of the joints that protects the underlying bone and allows your joints move smoothly. The most common joints affected are the knees, the hips and the shoulders. It also occurs commonly in the hand at the base of the thumb. It can occur in all other joints of the body including ankles, wrists, elbows, fingers and toes.

The most common symptom of arthritis is pain; pain with moving and pain when sitting too long. The joint can also swell and be affected by changes in the weather. Many arthritis sufferers feel stiffness in the morning and it starts to loosen up with activity. People with arthritis often feel popping and crunching in their joints.

Preventing arthritis is much better than treating it. Get your weight where it should be because wear and tear from carrying extra weight will cause arthritis. Stretching and strengthening will prevent arthritis. This is especially important for your larger muscle groups like quadriceps and hamstrings. Avoid unnecessary trauma to joints such as from falls or car accidents, but running does not cause damage to joints. Again, studies have shown that running does not cause arthritis.

Treating arthritis is not complicated and orthopedic sports specialists deal with this problem frequently. Therapy can be very effective. A steroid shot is called “a miracle” by many patients. However, the most important aspect of treating arthritis is first confirming that you have the correct diagnosis.

Almost every day I see patients who were told by another doctor that they have arthritis and that they need surgery. However, most people can be improved or even cured without surgery. If you did not have an x-ray, then arthritis has not been confirmed. Popping and swelling is a symptom of arthritis but the only way to know for certain is get an x-ray and have an orthopedist review it with you.

I always recommend getting a second opinion before you go for major surgery such as total knee or total hip replacement. Some surgeons push patients to surgery too quickly. Find an orthopedic doctor you trust and ask questions. Surgery is almost never the first line of treatment.

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