4 Signs of Arthritis
People often ask me, “How do I know I have arthritis?” Today I want to discuss a few of the signs that are present with arthritis.
1. Joint Stiffness
Stiffness is difficulty moving the joint. Stiffness often occurs after sitting for extended periods of time. It also occurs after standing in the same place such as standing in line for extended periods. Anyone can experience stiffness after sitting or standing too but with people without arthritis the stiffness usually gets better after walking a few steps. With arthritis the stiffness lasts longer or is almost always present.
Locking is the inability to move the joint. Locked joints are unable to bend or straighten. Like stiffness, locking occurs after sitting for extended periods or standing as well. Locking also happens while sleeping. The joint seems to fuse in place and many times requires you to physically unlock it. Pain usually accompanies locking. Locking sometimes means there a foreign body in the space between the joint that prevents it from moving. Torn cartilage or bone fragments are two such items. Surgery (usually arthroscopic) is typically required to remove foreign bodies.
Swelling is another sign of arthritis. Swelling is the body’s reaction to injury. Swelling occurs after surgery as well. Swelling is also described as inflammation. An enlarged area or body part, redness and heat (hot to the touch) are signs of swelling. There are times when inflammation is present without the presence of an enlarged body part. For instance prior to bi-lateral knee replacement my right knee was hot to the touch always. It didn’t matter whether I was active or inactive. My knee was always hot to the touch. The hot feeling was due to internal inflammation. My knee was not visibly swollen.
The pain associated with arthritis varies in many ways. Arthritis pain is sometimes mild but it can also be excruciating. A steady dull ache or a sharp shooting pain may also happen. The pain may come and go or be present all the time.
Pain is acute if it last for a short duration such as after a burn or surgery. A gout flare-up is acute pain because the pain subsides within a few days or weeks. Pain that last longer than three months is chronic pain. Fibromyalgia, low back pain and migraines are forms of chronic pain. Arthritis can be acute or chronic.
Please be aware that these are signs of arthritis but are not a conclusive diagnosis of arthritis. A visit with an orthopedic doctor is the only way to confirm a diagnosis of arthritis. A doctor confirms the diagnosis by taking a thorough patient history and x-rays. X-rays confirm an arthritis diagnosis in a third of people with the above signs. However there are instances when there is no evidence on an x-ray. In such cases an MRI or other testing is necessary. Damage such as torn cartilage or ligaments is not always visible on an x-ray.
Always visit a physician when you experience pain or any of the above signs. Pain is your body’s warning system. Pain is a signal that something is wrong. Medical intervention works best in the early stages of damage. Self-diagnosis is almost always a bad idea! Visit your family physician and use traditional medicine along with complementary and alternative medicine to have the most pain relief.
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