What Does Arthritis Pain Feel Like?
Everyone suffers from occasional aches and pains, but chronic joint pain and stiffness may be signaling something a little more serious. Persistent joint pain may be a symptom of arthritis. But what does arthritis pain feel like?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about 54.4 million adults in the U.S. suffer with arthritis, and this number is expected to rise to 78.4 million by 2040. This is significant, as about 43.5% of these individuals report limitation in their normal activities due to their arthritis. If you suffer from arthritis pain, learning strategies to manage it can help to keep you active and maintain your quality of life.
What Exactly Does Arthritis Pain Feel Like?
Arthritis pain is often described as a dull, achy type of pain that is deep within the joint that is sometimes associated with burning.
Depending on the type of arthritis, additional symptoms may also be experienced, including:
- Joint stiffness.
- Joint swelling.
- Joint redness and warmth.
- Decreased joint range of motion.
When Should You See a Doctor?
There are four warning signs that should prompt a visit to your doctor, including:
- Joint pain. If you have persistent joint pain in one part of the body or multiple parts, that comes and goes and that occurs at rest or while moving, you should speak with your doctor.
- Joint stiffness. If you have joint stiffness, especially in the morning, or after prolonged sitting, you should speak with your doctor, as this is a classic symptom of arthritis.
- Joint swelling. Certain types of arthritis cause the affected joint to become swollen, red and warm. If you have joint swelling that persists for more than three days at a time, or that occurs more than three times in a month, you should speak to your doctor.
- Decreased range of motion. If you struggle to move the affected joint normally or find it difficult to move from one position to another, you should speak with your doctor.
When you first notice symptoms, start keeping track of them for a few weeks and note:
- What joints are painful and stiff?
- When does the pain start?
- How long does the discomfort last?
- Is there anything that makes the discomfort better or worse?
- Do you get any related symptoms, such as tiredness, a rash, etc.?
This will help your doctor determine the type and severity of arthritis. If you doctor suspects you have arthritis, they will perform a physical examination to evaluate the affected joints and they may order laboratory tests and/or imaging tests to determine the extent of disease. This will help them to develop a suitable treatment plan to get your symptoms under control and help slow the progression of the disease.
Rick Factors for Arthritis Pain
Risk factors for arthritis include:
- Increasing age.
- Female gender.
- Genetics [HLA (human leukocyte antigen) class II genotypes].
- Being overweight or obese.
- Viral or bacterial infection.
- Joint injuries.
- Occupations that involve repetitive movements.
Prevention Techniques for Arthritis Pain
There are many things you can do to manage and/or prevent arthritis pain, including:
- Maintaining good posture.
- Keeping your joints moving through their full range of motion.
- Paying attention to your body – do not overdo it, if you feel pain, take a rest.
- Managing your weight.
- Quitting smoking.
Movement is so important if you suffer with arthritis pain. It can help:
- Decrease joint pain and stiffness.
- Increase your strength, endurance and joint range of motion.
- Improve your mood.
However, it is important that you choose the right type of activities so that you do not do more harm than good. Start with stretching and range-of-motion exercises, and gradually add in strength training. Additionally, engage in low-impact cardiovascular activities, such as swimming, walking or cycling.
There are also many different types of medication that can help to control your arthritis pain, including over-the-counter medications (acetaminophen, ibuprofen, naproxen etc.). Additionally, there are creams that contain capsaicin that can be used alone or in combination with other therapies to help relieve joint pain.
There are a wide variety of additional therapies that can be used to manage and/or prevent arthritis pain including:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy.
- Relaxation therapy, including yoga, mediation, deep breathing, etc.
- Acupuncture and/or massage therapy.
- Hot and cold therapy – applying an ice pack to the affected area for 10 minutes at a time can help to decrease joint pain and inflammation. Applying heat therapy for 15 to 20 minutes at a time can help soothe aching joints.
Arthritis pain can be crippling for some individuals, but learning strategies to manage and/or prevent arthritis pain can help you manage your condition, reduce your stress, improve your mood and maintain your quality of life.