How to Care for Arthritis Patients
April 25 2023
Arthritis Basics Plus Treatment and Long-Term Management Strategies
Arthritis is a painful, chronic condition that causes swelling and tenderness of one or more joints. This can cause pain and stiffness that often worsens with age. Because of this pain, this often means that both patients and caregivers must take extra care and work to manage and relieve pain.
Let’s take a look at some of the basics about arthritis, then take a look at treatment and management options.
Types of Arthritis
The most common types of arthritis are osteoarthritis, which affects the joint cartilage, and rheumatoid arthritis, which is when the immune system attacks the joints. Other types of arthritis include gout, psoriatic arthritis, reactive arthritis, and ankylosing spondylitis.
Risk Factors for Arthritis
While arthritis can develop in anyone, there are some risk factors including:
- Having a family history
- Age (risk increases as you age)
- Sex (women are more likely to develop rheumatoid, while men are more likely to develop gout and other types of arthritis)
- Having a previous joint injury
- Obesity (carrying excess weight puts more stress on joints)
When it comes to treatment, the focus is on relieving symptoms and improving joint function. Patients often try several different treatments or combinations of treatments before determining what works best.
The medications used to treat arthritis vary depending on the type of arthritis and a doctor will determine what medications are best based on the patient’s arthritis type and needs. Commonly used medications include NSAIDs, counterirritants, steroids, and disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs). It is important to note that many arthritis medications are maintenance medications. This means that in order to feel the benefits of the medication, the patient must continue to take it even if they feel better. Skipping doses, taking a dose late, or stopping medication can lead to worsening of pain and further progression of the disease.
Physical Therapy (PT)
PT can be helpful for some types of arthritis. Exercise can help improve range of motion and strengthen the muscles surrounding the joints. In some cases, braces or splints may be warranted.
When conservative, non-invasive measures are not enough, doctors may suggest surgery. Different types of surgery include joint repair, joint replacement, and joint fusion.
Some arthritis patients have found relief combining traditional western medicine with alternative medicine treatments. Alternative remedies for arthritis include:
- Tai Chi
- Therapeutic massage
- Taking a glucosamine supplement
- Taking a chondroitin supplement
- Taking fish oil supplements
Beyond treatment, arthritis also requires long-term management strategies. This can be everything from adjusting your daily routine, adding in arthritis-friendly exercise, as well as behavioral therapy.
Self-management education allows you to learn the skills to manage your arthritis and make good decisions about your health. It can help you learn to manage your pain on a daily basis, learn your limits for different activities, reduce stress, and communicate better with your healthcare providers about your care, among other skills.
Lifestyle and Daily Routine
Patients may need to adjust their daily living routine as well as adjust their lifestyle to help better manage their condition. Here are a few things that should be considered:
- Adding in gentle, daily stretching can help keep your joints moving
- Working with a physical therapist for better posture
- Balancing rest and activity to not overdo it, which could cause additional pain
- Managing weight with diet and exercise
- Smoking cessation (smoking causes stress on connective tissues, which can increase arthritis pain)
- Using aids, such as mobility and safety products
It’s important to choose the right kinds of activities that won’t further damage or put undue stress on the joints. Gentle exercises that focus on range of motion and are low impact are best, such as walking, cycling, water exercise, and yoga. These low impact exercises can also help protect your joints from further injury, which can worsen arthritis.
Chronic pain can have negative effects on our mental health. When everyday activities are hard or make you hurt, you are bound to feel discouraged, and eventually depressed or hopeless. This is why integrating mental health into long-term management strategies is key. Therapies include cognitive behavioral therapy, relaxation therapy, hot and cold therapy, acupuncture, and massage.
Each arthritis patient is different; this means that no two patients will have the same treatment and management strategies. While arthritis can be painful, and even debilitating, with treatment and lifestyle changes it is possible to live a full and happy life.
Arthritis Care at Home
Home healthcare is a much more affordable option compared to long-term facilities. Living at home is also much more comfortable for patients and allows them to better focus on their treatments and therapies, resulting in better health outcomes! All American would love to be your home healthcare team! We offer high quality home healthcare services from experienced and certified caregivers. Our care teams consist of:
- Registered nurses
- Home health aides
- Physical therapists
- Speech therapists
- Occupational therapists
- And more!
Contact us today to learn about our customizable home healthcare services.