Diagnosing Arthritis: Do You Already Have It?

Arthritis is a chronic condition resulting from the wearing away of cartilage or inflammation in the joints. According to the Arthritis Foundation, one in every five Americans over 18 has arthritis in a minimum of one joint.

The condition causes an impairment of the natural cushion in the joint, which can cause pain and swelling. Both symptoms of arthritis make it difficult to walk or handle simple everyday tasks, such as opening jars.

Not all joint pain and swelling point to arthritis. Sometimes, injuries can result in similar symptoms. However, along with stiffness and difficulty moving a joint, swelling and pain are common warning signs of the condition.

Learning More About the 4 Primary Arthritis Warning Signs

Arthritis pain is hard to define. The condition can cause constant pain or bouts of discomfort that come and go. The pain also doesn't discriminate between resting or moving, and it may occur in one place or in multiple joints throughout the body.

Swelling resulting from arthritis typically affects the skin over a joint. The skin often becomes red and warm to the touch. Depending on the severity of the condition, swollen skin might be tender to the touch. Medical experts warn that people experiencing localized swelling for three days or more should see their doctor.

Stiffness is a classic arthritis symptom that typically occurs after sitting or resting for extended periods. For example, someone's knees or hips might become stiff after riding in a car for more than an hour. It is common for people with arthritis to experience stiffness; some experiences last about an hour.

People without arthritis can easily lift themselves out of a chair while those people with arthritis of the knees, hips, hands, feet, etc., will often struggle with such seemingly simple tasks because they have difficulty moving their joints.

Dealing With a Suspected Diagnosis

Experiencing arthritis symptoms is not a definitive diagnosis. For an official diagnosis, you will need to go to a doctor. However, before you make an appointment, many experts suggest recording your symptoms for several weeks to help your doctor determine the type of arthritis you may have.

In your journal, record when and where you experience swelling and stiffness. Also, please note how long symptoms last and what eases them. You should also note symptoms that don't seem related, like a rash, fatigue, or fever. If you experience a fever, you should seek medical attention immediately.

If your physician suspects arthritis, they may perform different range of motion tests. Any pain you experience during these tests is another sign of arthritis.

A family history of arthritis can also indicate a diagnosis. Your primary doctor may refer you to a specialist for an official diagnosis.

Arthritis is a common condition. Four main symptoms are associated with a diagnosis: pain, swelling, stiffness and difficulty moving a joint. While the combination of the symptoms provides a safe assumption of a diagnosis, you will need to seek a medical opinion for an official diagnosis, especially if you need help with pain management.

6 Home Remedies To Manage Arthritis Pain

Arthritis stems from one of two medical conditions: osteoarthritis — the degeneration of cartilage and bone — or rheumatoid arthritis — an autoimmune disease. While medical professionals can prescribe pain relievers and other medications to help combat symptoms, most suggest combining medicine and natural approaches for relief. There are several options for treating your arthritis at home without depending on prescriptions or over-the-counter products alone.

1. Exercise

Exercise can seem counterintuitive to those with arthritis because it involves impact and absorption at the joints. However, the appropriate form of exercise can promote flexibility while strengthening the fundamental muscles around affected bones and cartilage.   

When starting an exercise regimen, you should talk with your doctor about appropriate exercises, and you need to consider your current level of physical activity and health. People with arthritis will want to focus on low-impact workouts, which include:  

  • Cycling  
  • Walking  
  • Water activities  
  • Tai chi  
  • Yoga

2. Weight Management

Managing your weight can have a significant impact on your arthritis. The heavier you are, the more pressure you place on critical joints, including the knees, hips, and ankles. With degenerative conditions like osteoarthritis, obesity can increase the rate of deterioration. The American College of Rheumatology and the Arthritis Foundation suggests losing weight can have significant benefits on arthritic conditions, such as:  

  • Decreasing pain  
  • Improving mobility  
  • Preventing future damage  

Before delving into a weight loss journey, consult your primary physician to set goals. Your doctor can help determine a healthy target weight and design an effective program. 

3. Diet

As always, a healthy and balanced diet is the key to optimum health. A rich diet comprised primarily of fruits, vegetables, and whole foods can boost immune system strength and coordination. While there is evidence suggesting a strong correlation between rheumatoid arthritis and dietary choices, some studies also support the use of a diet to improve the lives of those with osteoarthritis.  

When assessing your current diet, there are several items to limit or stay away from, including processed foods, red meat, added sugars, saturated fats, and salt. As for the foods you want to include:  

  • Fatty fish (high in omega-3s)  
  • Turmeric dishes  
  • Tofu  
  • Edamame  
  • Dairy  
  • Broccoli  
  • Citrus fruits  
  • Nuts

4. Mindfulness

As a chronic pain condition, arthritis leads to stress, anxiety, and sometimes depression. The National Institutes of Health offer several studies and examples of how mindfulness can improve the mentality and physical condition of those with arthritis, especially rheumatoid arthritis.  

When you meditate, you help your body relax. When your body is relaxed, the brain has less need to produce fight-or-flight hormones, including cortisol — the stress hormone. Meditation, then, can inhibit the body's inflammatory responses by controlling unhelpful chemical reactions, potentially curbing arthritis pain.

5. Acupuncture

Practitioners of acupuncture — an ancient Chinese medical treatment — believe that inserting thin needles into precise locations on the body can help reroute energies and balance the body's meridians. With limited research-backed evidence, it is challenging to prescribe acupuncture as a definitive treatment for arthritis. Still, there is enough circumstantial evidence to suggest the practice can help some patients.

6. Herbal Supplements

While not backed by scientific research, some evidence suggests that herbs can help with arthritis symptoms. Some of the most popular herbs include:  

  • Ginko  
  • Bromelain  
  • Boswellia  
  • Thunder god vine  
  • Devil's claw  
  • Stinging nettle  

Arthritis is a chronic pain condition, but several home remedies and options can help relieve symptoms. If you are interested in trying one of the above methods to manage arthritis symptoms, talk to your doctor first. 

Do you have any suggestions for arthritis pain relief?