Rheumatoid Arthritis Vs Osteoarthritis
Debilitating pain caused by arthritis is life-changing; limiting your involvement in everything from work to recreational and leisure activities. Arthritis comes in many different forms, and it can be challenging to understand what is happening with your body during the onset of arthritis. Recognizing warning signs and managing pain during flare ups are important steps you can take to ensure a more active, productive life.
What is it?
Rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis share common symptoms of joint pain and inflammation; yet the nature of each disease, path of progression, and treatments are very different.
- Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder that produces inflammatory joint symptoms throughout the body. Typically, this is considered an “attack” from the autoimmune system on the joints. When this happens, it is typical for pairs of joints to swell, such as both hands, both ankles, etc. Treatment includes anti-inflammatory or corticosteroid medications, as well as prescribed drugs that suppress your immune system to prevent damage when your body is attacking your joints.
- Joint pain, especially symmetrical (both hands, both ankles, etc.)
- Swelling and stiffness
- Decreased range of motion
- Fatigue and loss of energy
- Osteoarthritis is a degenerative condition where joints stiffen due to loss of cartilage between joints as a result of wear and tear. This is often associated with aging, obesity, or injury to the joints. Symptoms tend to affect weight-bearing joints, such as back, hip, knee, neck, or big toe. Treatment includes anti-inflammatory or corticosteroid medications, physical and occupational therapy, weight management and exercise.
- Joint stiffness
- Pain and Decreased motion
- Muscle weakness around the arthritic joint, especially the knee
- Swelling and soreness in joints
- Deformation in joints, causing them to look crooked or misshaped
- Cracking or creaking in joints
- Reduced or limited range of motion
Helpful Tips During Flare Ups
As you are diagnosed, treated, and managing arthritis, there may be bumps in the road on your way to regaining an active life filled with less pain. These bumps may be associated with increased pain and worsening conditions just when you thought you were in the clear. Be assured, these acute, unpredictable episodes of pain and inflammation known as flares are most likely temporary; and can be managed and improved. Although it is unclear what exactly triggers a flare, there are measures you can take to not only recognize a flare up, but to maneuver through it with hope and determination:
- Limit Stress. Flare ups are usually seen after an infection or extremely stressful experience. Take the time to properly heal after sickness, and try to limit any additional stress that will prolong the flare episode.
- Don’t forget to reach out to your doctor. Your physician can address pain medication needs.
- Try to relax and go easy on yourself. Apply cold/hot packs to inflamed joints or practice deep breathing techniques.
- Find balance. Remember that spending long periods of time in inactivity is counterproductive for arthritic joints. Intersperse periods of rest with light activity.
- Communicate with those around you. Let your friends, family, and coworkers know that you may need more help or consideration when the flare hits. Communicate specific needs if others ask for help, and don’t be afraid to be honest with what you are capable of during a flare.