Can Arthritis Be Reversed? Factors and Treatment
If you’ve spent any time dealing with a condition like arthritis, you know the nagging, aching, and sometimes burning pain that it can cause.
Maybe your particular form of arthritis comes in flare-ups — periods of limited to no symptoms followed by excruciating periods of pain and swelling. Perhaps you haven’t yet developed any form of arthritis but are interested to know if it can be reversed because you have certain risk factors. Muscle MX is diving into arthritis to uncover whether it can be reversed and what the treatment options are.
Can Arthritis Be Reversed?
The answer is, possibly — it depends on what kind of arthritis you’re suffering from, how far it’s
progressed, and other risk factors, like:
- Age: If you’re over the age of 50, you stand a much higher chance of developing some forms of arthritis. Other forms of arthritis and similar conditions can begin at any time, but generally, the older you are, the higher the risk.
- Physical condition: Your weight, resting heart rate, and blood pressure are all very important when determining your risk for arthritis.
- Personal habits: Things like smoking, drinking excess alcohol, or using drugs can also increase your risk of developing arthritis conditions.
- Whether you have an autoimmune disease: As some forms of arthritis are autoimmune, if you already have a diagnosed autoimmune disorder (celiac, lupus, fibromyalgia, chrons, etc.), then you’re much more likely to develop another one.
Let’s look at some of the types of arthritis and the specific risk areas that might determine whether it’s reversible or not.
What Is Arthritis?
At the most basic level, arthritis is when one or more joints in the body become inflamed. There are so many different reasons why this can happen, but you’ll find that the pain in inflamed joints generally feels sore, tense, aching, and often burning.
There are well over 200 joints in the body, but the major ones usually affected by arthritis are the fingers and toes, knees, hips, shoulders, neck, and back (spinal cord). Arthritis can affect you temporarily, or it may go on for the rest of your life, depending on what kind and how severe it is.
The joints of our bodies are where two or more bones come together, surrounded by a mix of tendons, ligaments, and cartilage that allow the joint to move smoothly. It’s typical for arthritis to affect joints that we use daily, like our ankles, knees, wrists, fingers, and toes.
What Are the Major Types of Arthritis?
There are many different forms of arthritis, some affecting multiple joints throughout the body and some affecting only one or two because of heavy use.
Let’s look at some of the main types of arthritis:
This is the most common form of arthritis because its major risk factors are age and wear and tear on your joints over long periods of time. Osteoarthritis feels like an ache in your knees, wrists, hips, or other joints, but it typically also leads to scraping, popping, and crackling sensations in the joints. The chances of developing osteoarthritis are about one in four.
Osteoarthritis can also result from the overuse of joints. For example, someone who spends the entire day typing on a computer has a much higher chance of developing osteoarthritis in their hands. Runners have a much higher chance of developing knee inflammation from the constant pounding on their joints.
Can osteoarthritis be reversed? Not really. If the disease has progressed to the point that there’s been significant damage to joints, it may not be possible to reverse that amount of deterioration, but there’s always the possibility of stopping further progression and managing symptoms.
So while you can’t exactly cure osteoarthritis, you can maintain or even increase your mobility and overall health to help lessen the symptoms.
Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)
The main difference between rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and osteoarthritis is that RA is autoimmune, meaning that it results from the body attacking itself. It is similar to osteoarthritis in that you’re more likely to develop it if you’re older.
Because RA is degenerative, it doesn’t tend to get better with time but instead gets worse as the cartilage, ligaments, and tendons are eaten away by the disease.
Common symptoms of RA include:
- Stiff joints in the morning or after periods of inactivity
- Aching and swelling in the joints
- The same type of pain on both sides of the body (for example, tenderness and swelling in both hands)
- Fever and fatigue
Because RA is autoimmune, it generally cannot be reversed — but it can go into remission, meaning there are no active signs that it’s affecting your body. You can manage the symptoms of RA, and possibly slow its progression, through lifestyle changes and proper treatment.
Gout is a type of arthritis traditionally associated with the overconsumption of red meat. This arthritic disease can appear very suddenly, and the main cause is a buildup of uric acid that crystallizes in joints, especially the big toe. Gout typically entails intense attacks of pain that seemingly come out of nowhere.
Some doctors and medical researchers believe that gout is a reversible condition. Because it’s caused by deposits of uric acid, if the deposits are removed through treatment and lifestyle changes, gout can theoretically be reversed.
Even if not reversible, you can typically manage gout with several treatments and lifestyle practices, like drinking more water (this can help flush the uric acid from the joints).
When a wound or post-surgery incision on a joint gets infected, this can lead to septic arthritis. The joints affected will become swollen, hot, tender, and painful. Usually, a course of antibiotics can reverse the effects of septic arthritis, but a significant amount of damage can occur in the joint if it’s not addressed quickly.
What Conditions Can Cause Arthritis-Like Pain?
While arthritis is a specific condition, some other illnesses and diseases cause arthritis-like joint discomfort. Neuropathic conditions, for example, have to do with the nerves in the body not working properly and confusing pain signals. Often this leads to pain that feels a lot like arthritis and can be hard to diagnose.
There is still a lot that isn’t known or understood about fibromyalgia, but it’s characterized by several symptoms that include joint pain and inflammation. It’s a neuropathic condition and has to do with damage to the central nervous system that confuses the pain signals of the body. There isn’t a known cure for fibromyalgia, but there are treatments and some ways of managing symptoms.
Lupus is an autoimmune disorder where the body wears down the joints and organs. There are many symptoms of lupus, but a common one is joint pain, which may make you think you’re dealing with an arthritic condition. Lupus isn’t curable and, therefore, not reversible, but it can get somewhat better with treatment.
If Lyme disease, a tick-borne illness, is caught early, then a course of antibiotics can take care of it. Typical Lyme symptoms include a low-grade fever and pain in the joints. Sometimes people will experience neuropathic symptoms that go on for months or even years. Lyme is reversible early on, but it can cause long-term side effects that have to be managed.
Neuropathy causes pain, numbness, tingling, and eclectic sensations in the feet and hands. Often it can affect fingers and toes, making it difficult to walk or do basic activities. It’s not reversible, but there are some things that can be done to lessen symptoms, like lowering blood sugar levels and maintaining a healthy weight.
What Can You Do To Lessen Your Chance of Developing Arthritis?
Working to minimize your risk of developing arthritis can help you retain your full, comfortable range of motion for a longer time. The following are some key methods in maintaining your joint health and warding off joint conditions like arthritis.
Be Mindful of Existing Injuries
If you have a problem joint in your body (for example, an ankle that you twist very easily and frequently), consider doing things like wrapping it in an ace bandage or a sports sleeve to add extra support. Injury drives the chances of developing arthritis a lot. It’s also important to keep the muscles around your joints flexible by stretching them on a consistent basis.
Making sure that you exercise, get outside, and move plenty is very important to keep your joints lubricated and healthy. Stretching exercises can also go a very long way in keeping your joints lubricated and your range of motion at its fullest.
Extra weight can mean extra stress on joints. If you’re significantly overweight, it might be helpful to lose a few pounds so that there’s less strain on your joints. This is especially important for your knees, which bear a large percentage of your body’s weight.
Maintain a Balanced Diet
A balanced, nutrient-rich diet is a key part of keeping your joints and bones healthy. Specifically, diets that are lacking in calcium and vitamin D may increase your risk of developing certain forms of arthritis later in life. Maintaining a balanced diet rich in these key nutrients can help you maintain your overall well-being, even as you age.
How Can You Treat Arthritis?
There are a number of things that can be done to treat arthritis. The most important step is prevention, but once it’s begun, there are specific medical interventions that can help. It’s always good to talk to your doctor first if you have concerns, but there are also many home remedies that can help manage the symptoms of arthritis.
- Medication: This might include pain relievers like acetaminophen or NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications). In more severe cases, it might include muscle relaxers or prescription pain medications.
- Physical therapy: This might be necessary to strengthen the muscles that surround your joints so that you have more mobility.
- Hyaluronic injection: This type of injection deposits a fluid similar to the fluid that surrounds your joints. It can lubricate the joint, causing a lessening of inflammation.
- Joint replacement: If the damage to a joint is serious enough, a joint replacement might be necessary. The replacement joint might be made of plastic, metal, or even ceramic, and is meant to function like a real joint. The most common joints to be replaced are the hips and knees. Complications can occur (like infections), but are usually treatable.
- Keeping active Trying to encourage flexibility and mobility is crucial to dealing with arthritis conditions.
- Topicals: There are many balms, creams, and lotions designed specifically to address joint inflammation.
- Natural supplements: These could be tinctures of herbs or plants, homeopathic products, or essential oils.
- Massage: Some areas of the body are easy to self-massage, while for others (like the back), it’s helpful seeing a professional massage therapist.
- Ice pack: Try applying cold to the areas with the most pain. This can bring down the swelling.
- Heat: this could include a hot shower, a warm bath, or using a jacuzzi.
Dealing With Arthritis
If you think you may be developing arthritis, talk to your healthcare provider as soon as possible to get more specific answers about what type you may have and whether it’s reversible. Get ahead of the condition by making any necessary lifestyle changes early instead of waiting till your symptoms are more severe. If it isn’t reversible, you may need to learn about the best ways of treating the symptoms.
If you’re already diagnosed or pretty sure that you’re dealing with a form of arthritis, make sure that you’re making the best choices for your body so you experience less discomfort. This would include getting sufficient rest, eating well, and spending time being physically active.
If you’ve already tried a lot of different medications, supplements, and other medical interventions, consider looking into low-risk, safe alternatives. Don’t let discomfort from arthritis keep you from the things you love!
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