Did you know the base of the thumb is the most common place for arthritis? Dr. Rivadeneyra, also known as Dr. Riva, a family and sports medicine physician from Orthopedic Specialty Institute spoke this February at Hoag Orthopedic Institute about arthritis and some options to help relieve the pain associated with it.
What is arthritis?
The word arthritis, when broken down, is translated to joint (artho-) inflammation (-itis). The most common cause of arthritis is a traumatic injury, such as a fall or crash. Joint injuries at any age dramatically increase the risk of developing arthritis. Arthritis can occur in any joint in the body, and it is possible that arthritis will occur in more than one joint at a time.
There are a few different types of arthritis, but the most common is osteoarthritis, or OA for short. Over time, the cartilage at the head of the bone that serves as a cushion deteriorates which causes osteoarthritis. It is a degenerative disease, which means that it gets worse over time- no matter what you do. However, if you are sedentary (doing little to no activity) the arthritis can get worse more rapidly. Dr. Riva stressed the importance of living an active lifestyle because it helps slow the worsening of osteoarthritis.
Treatment options for arthritis
There are a variety of different treatment and maintenance options for individuals with arthritis. Because almost all arthritis cases are not emergency situations, patients may choose the path of their treatment, as well as when they would like to begin treating their arthritis. Treatment options range from simply taking pain medication to surgical options.
Dr. Riva recommends Acetaminophen (Tylenol) as the first medication to try. The risks with Tylenol are relatively low, and it is effective for many patients. If Tylenol does not help with pain, Dr. Riva recommends other NSAIDs (Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug) such as ibuprofen (Advil) or naproxen (Aleve).
Along with NSAIDs, there are some pain relief options that can be administered by a physician. These include stem cell injections, steroid injections, hyaluronic acid injections, and ablation. According to Dr. Riva, however, injections can be counterproductive. They relieve pain for a short amount of time, but can actually cause damage to the cartilage, worsening the pain over time. Ablation is another technique used in some circumstances where a physician uses radiofrequency to interrupt the pain signals from the brain to the knee. Dr. Riva mentioned that in order for ablation to be done, insurance may require a nerve block to see if the procedure would even help.
In addition to the medical techniques to help alleviate pain, there are strategies that patients can implement to take control of their arthritis. Proper nutrition and exercise are extremely important in the reduction of pain. One pound of weight loss takes four pounds of pressure off of each knee. This translates to a significant reduction in pain! Dr. Riva recommends walking as the best form of exercise. Keeping active prevents stiffness, and also aides in joint fluid production- which helps prevent pain. Dr. Riva also stressed the importance of mental health as it relates to pain. He explained that stress, anxiety, and depression play a role in pain sensation. Decreasing your stress can help decrease your pain!
Members of the audience asked questions about different supplements you can take to avoid arthritis – the most commonly known one being glucosamine. Dr. Riva explained there is no convincing evidence that glucosamine helps with arthritis, however, it also doesn’t hurt! Other suggestions that may help included Omega-3’s and turmeric.
One key takeaway from Dr. Riva’s lecture was that we all experience pain at some point, but it doesn’t have to be as serious as osteoarthritis. Inactivity, injury, stiffness, swelling, weather, gravity, stress, medical issues, and nutrition are all contributing factors to pain. If you are experiencing pain that does not go away, however, it is important for you to consult with a medical professional such as Dr. Riva.
There are many steps you can take to gain control over arthritis. If you are suffering from any type of arthritis, don’t hesitate to contact one of our clinics to schedule an injury assessment. Our physical therapists can provide more information regarding your condition, as well as make personalized recommendations for treatment. You can contact our Rancho Santa Margarita location at (949) 713-6445 or our Irvine location at (949) 262-9142. Our therapists are happy to help!
We want to extend a special thank you to Hoag Medical Group and Dr. Rivadeneyra for hosting the lecture and providing us with valuable information in managing arthritis. Dr. Riva spends the majority of his time at Orthopedic Specialty Institute in Orange, CA. He can be contacted at (714) 634-4567.