More than 50 million Americans suffer some form of arthritis, a debilitating inflammatory disease of the joints that can affect anyone at any age. There are a number of different kinds of arthritis – more than 100 in all – with the most common being osteoarthritis (OA) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA). However, there are some conditions, like fibromyalgia and restless leg syndrome, which often mimic arthritis. To avoid any confusion, here are some early signs and symptoms of the most common forms of arthritis.
With osteoarthritis, the cartilage in the joints breaks down and causes the joints to swell and the bones in the area to rub together. OA is the most common type of arthritis and usually is related to the “wear and tear” the accompanies our body over time or after an injury. OA occurs most frequently in the hands, knees and hips, and minor pain or stiffness and may eventually limit the motion of the joints affected. The most common symptoms of OA include:
- Pain or aching
- Stiffness (initially in the morning)
- Decreased range of motion (or flexibility), as well as lack of coordination at the affected joint
- The growth of bone spurs and loss of the normal shape of the joints — this usually occurs after the other symptoms have occurred
Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)
Rheumatoid arthritis, also called autoimmune arthritis, occurs when the body’s immune system – our organic defense against disease – mistakenly turns against the healthy cells in the joints. RA usually begins in the small joints, such as those found in the hands, and progresses to the larger joints such those found in the knees, elbows, and hips. About 1.2 million Americans suffer from RA. With RA, symptoms usually develop simultaneously on both sides of the body, for example, in both hands or knees. Among its main symptoms, you will find:
- Aching or pain in more than one joint
- Stiffness and loss of movement, also in more than one joint
- Swelling and tenderness in several joints
- A sensation of tingling and burning in both hands or both feet
- Fatigue and weakness
Gout is a form of arthritis that usually causes intense, sudden pain, most often in the big toe. Gout is diagnosed by the presence of uric acid in the blood, and often follows after the patient has consumed protein-rich foods such as steak or shellfish; or after consuming alcoholic beverages. Men are more likely to acquire gout than women and is more likely to appear in those who have experienced it before and not provided adequate attention to their lifestyle habits. Early signs and symptoms include:
- A sudden, stabbing pain or swelling at the base of big toe, often in the middle of the night
- Pain and redness, usually intense and made worse by physical activity
- A sensation of heat at the joint
Like RA, psoriatic arthritis is an autoimmune form of the disease but only occurs in some people who have psoriasis. Because of this, psoriatic arthritis is often misdiagnosed. However, there are some differences. Psoriatic arthritis is more likely to cause swelling and pain in the fingertips and toes, the back of the foot and along the arch (plantar fasciitis). Aside from a physical examination, laboratory tests can rule out RA and gout as a diagnosis.
The physical therapists and friendly staff at Endeavor Rehab Center in Texas have years of experience working with people who have all forms of arthritis to helping them manage their arthritic pain and symptoms. Give Endeavor a call. They are happy to answer any questions you may have about their many treatment options, including dry needling, which has proven effective in many patients with arthritis. To request an appointment, call (512) 284-7192 or request an appointment online.