Learn how to deal with arthritis

It can be a nasty disease, but from aspirin to yoga to massage, there are lots of ways to ease the pain and stiffness.

Myrna Driedger, MLA Winnipeg Manitoba Progressive Conservative (PC) caucus
Myrna Driedger
Broadway Journal

Arthritis is inflammation of one or more of your joints. The main symptoms of arthritis are joint pain and stiffness, which usually become more pronounced with age. The most common types of arthritis are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

Osteoarthritis affects the cartilage which is the hard slippery tissue covering the tips of the bones where there is a joint. Over time this tissue disintegrates causing bone on bone wear. Athletes often experience osteoarthritis in later years due to the very physical sports they played when they were young.

Can be inherited
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder targeting the lining of joints. Uric acid crystals, infections or underlying disease, such as psoriasis or lupus, can cause other types of arthritis. Different types of arthritis require different type of treatment.

The risk factors for arthritis include family history, age, sex (more women than men develop rheumatoid arthritis while more men than women develop gout, which is another form of arthritis). Being overweight puts extra stress on the joints, typically in the knees and hips.

The goal for treating arthritis effectively is to try and reduce the pain and to improve quality of life so we can perform daily tasks that we take for granted – such as sitting up straight, being able to walk comfortably or tying shoes.

If you suspect you may have arthritis your doctor can do tests to confirm a diagnosis. The doctor will check for swelling, redness, how much mobility you have with your joints and may request additional lab tests. By taking samples of your body fluids – blood, urine, and joint fluid – the lab can determine what specific type of arthritis you have. Other tests may include X-rays, CT scans, MRI’s, ultrasound or an arthroscopy where a thin tube is inserted into a joint and transmits a video view of the joint to a screen.

Once the type of arthritis has been confirmed some of the medical treatments can be the use of an analgesic to reduce pain: acetaminophens such as Tylenol or others containing oxycontin, or hydrocodone. There are also nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to reduce pain and inflammation.

Easing the pain
Physiotherapy can be helpful for some types of arthritis. Exercises that do not put a strain on the joint such as swimming can improve range of motion and strengthen the muscles surrounding joints. In some cases, splints or braces may be warranted. Yoga and tai chi are slow stretching exercises that may help with flexibility in some cases of arthritis. Some light massage by a qualified massage therapist may also relieve some pain. Hot and cold packs may also help to reduce pain and swelling.

For more information check out the website at www.arthritis.ca and select the Manitoba region or email info@mb.arthritis.ca.

Myrna Driedger is MLA for Charleswood and the Health Critic for the official Opposition.

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