What is arthritis?
Arthritis is an umbrella term for more than 100 conditions that affect the joints of the human body. Arthritis can range from mild to severe and can affect people of all ages.
If you have arthritis, the joints are inflamed, causing discomfort and pain. Arthritis affects nearly 4 million Australians, including at least 6,000 children.
The 3 most common types of arthritis found in Australians are: osteoarthritis; rheumatoid arthritis and gout.
What are the symptoms of arthritis?
The symptoms of arthritis vary from person to person. But if you have arthritis, you will almost certainly have symptoms relating to your joints, such as: pain; swelling in a joint; redness and warmth in a joint; stiffness or reduced movement of a joint.
When should I see my doctor?
Joints can get sore for many reasons. Soreness could be due to an injury, joint overuse, or doing a new type of physical activity. See your doctor if you have pain and stiffness that starts with no known reason that you can easily recall and lasts for more than a few days. Additionally when the pain also causes swelling, redness and warmth. It is particularly important to start treatment for arthritis as soon as possible to prevent it from getting worse and causing long-term damage.
How is arthritis treated?
For many types of arthritis, there are treatments available that can help control symptoms and prevent damage to the joints.
The most appropriate treatment will depend on which type of arthritis you have, which joints are affected, and the symptoms you have.
Treatment might include:
- medicines, such as painkillers, anti-inflammatory medicines or medicines to slow down the disease (called disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs, or DMARDs, used for inflammatory forms of arthritis such as rheumatoid arthritis)
- pain management techniques, such as meditation, hot & cold therapy bags.
Manage your pain
Arthritis pain can be caused by inflammation, damage to the joints and muscle tension. It can be worse when you are tired or stressed.
Some things you can do to manage pain include:
- taking pain killers. Your doctor or pharmacist can advise you
- exercising regularly to keep the joints moving
- using hot (a warm bath, heat therapy bag or hot water bottle) or cold bag (ice pack) treatments throughout the day
- looking after your joints by avoiding activities that make pain worse
- using therapies such as massage and acupuncture