What is Arthritis?
Arthritis is commonly associated with age, and something that happens when joint tissues wear down with overuse. However, arthritis is an umbrella term for a variety of chronic joint diseases causing joint pain, inflammation, and stiffness.
As a leading cause of disability in America, arthritis is important to understand and get a diagnosis if you think you may be affected. Diagnosis and early treatment help prolong joint structures. Keep reading to learn more.
Basics of Arthritis
Arthritis is more than worn down joint tissue. The term “arthritis” refers to over 100 joint diseases, and these diseases affect millions of all ages, genders, and races. In fact, arthritis is the leading cause of disability in America. Arthritis is a chronic and progressive disease in many of its forms, meaning early identification is important to managing the disease.
While anyone can develop arthritis, the condition is more common among women, and people are more likely to develop it as they age.
Types of Arthritis
With over 100 forms of arthritis, there are a few major categories: degenerative, inflammatory, metabolic, and infectious.
Osteoarthritis is a type of degenerative arthritis where the cartilage cushioning on the end of the bones wears away, eventually causing bone to rub on bone in the joints. This type of arthritis causes joint pain, swelling, and stiffness, and generally develops as a person ages.
Rheumatoid arthritis is a type of inflammatory arthritis and a form of autoimmune disease. With rheumatoid arthritis, the immune system attacks healthy joint tissue, causing pain, swelling, and inflammation, most often in the hands and wrists. This type of arthritis can progress quickly, so early diagnosis is key to slowing the progression.
Juvenile arthritis is a form of rheumatoid arthritis that develops in childhood. As a chronic and autoimmune disease, juvenile arthritis can impact growth, and the pain, swelling, and stiffness can make participating in sports or other activities difficult. However, exercise and regular activity is key to maintain range of motion in joints for all forms of arthritis.
Sometimes, arthritis can be caused by a bacterial or fungal infection. Timely treatment with the right antimicrobial medication can usually resolve this kind of arthritis. Metabolic forms of arthritis include gout, where an excess of uric acid is produced by the body, causing severe and sudden joint pain.
Treatments for Arthritis
The type of arthritis someone has and its severity at diagnosis will determine the course of action to take for treatment. For minor joint pain and swelling, ice therapy and anti-inflammatory drugs are a common first step. Sometimes bracing is used to help with joint stability, such as in the knees.
Rheumatoid arthritis is often treated with a class of pharmaceuticals called DMARDs, or disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs, to help slow the progress of the disease and potentially achieve remission where there is little to no disease activity.
For degenerative forms of arthritis, cortisone injections can be administered to the affected joint to temporarily re-lubricate the joint. However, cortisone injections can actually contribute to joint structure deterioration when overused, and many insurance plans will limit the number of injections a person can receive per year.
Physical activity is important for the management of symptoms for many kinds of arthritis. Physical therapy is often helpful in building joint strength, maintaining range of motion, and reducing joint stiffness.
How Laser Therapy Helps Arthritic Joints
Laser therapy is a type of photobiomodulation that uses concentrated red light to target a specific area in the body. Red light has been shown to activate the mitochondria of the body’s cells, which allows for great production and transport of energy at the cellular level. This has a variety of effects helpful to managing arthritis symptoms:
- Reduce pain by decreasing production of pain-eliciting chemical, bradykinin
- Improve vascular activity through temporary widening of the blood and lymphatic vessels, allowing for more nutrients to supply a damaged area and improve lymphatic drainage
- Increased production of inflammatory mediators to accelerate and resolve inflammation quickly
Laser therapy is best for degenerative forms of arthritis, such as osteoarthritis. It combines well with physical therapy to reduce pain, build joint strength, and maintain range of motion. There are no side effects to laser therapy, and it can be used in combination with ice therapy, braces and other assistive devices, and anti-inflammatory medications. Additionally, there’s no downtime for laser therapy treatments; patients can return to their normal activities at the end of each appointment.
Aspen Laser is a leading provider of advanced laser therapy devices. Our class IV laser therapy systems are a part of the services at over 200 locations worldwide. You can find an Aspen Laser provider in your area and say goodbye to arthritic joint point.