What is Arthritis?

Arthritis affects approximately 350 million people in the world and over 40 million people in the United States.

The affects of arthritis can be devastating, keeping people from walking or even brushing their hair.

What is arthritis?

Arthritis is simply the loss of cartilage within a joint.

Articular cartilage is smooth and normally allows all joints of our body from the hands, to the neck and back to the knees and feet to glide without rubbing or catching.

Damage to the cartilage makes joints catch, pop or even lock where the joint cannot be moved. The biggest problem with arthritis is the pain that it causes.

People with arthritis in the knees often cannot walk up or down stairs. People with arthritis of the shoulder cannot reach overhead or back. Arthritis in the hand may make it impossible to open a jar.

Preventing arthritis

This disease is rampant but it can be prevented and once it develops it can be treated. To prevent arthritis you need to not overstress a joint.

Running does not cause arthritis, but falling down can. Lifting weights does not cause arthritis but lifting too much weight and especially doing too many reps with excessive weight can.

Being overweight also puts more stress through the cartilage and can cause damage.

Treating arthritis

If you already have some arthritis, stretching and strengthening can help with the pain. Anti-inflammatory medications like Advil can also help.

If symptoms are bad, a steroid injection often provides dramatic relief and pretty quickly. Physical therapy also helps most people.

I have had tremendous success with hyaluronic acid injections (gel shots) done in my office that often allows people to avoid surgery.

If symptoms do not improve with the above treatments, then joint replacement surgery works very well for most people.

After the surgery most people walk and can do normal daily activities without pain. Patients often state that joint surgery has changed their lives dramatically.

If you suspect you have arthritis, make sure you see a specialist who can diagnose it correctly. The best test is a simple x-ray, but this should be seen by an orthopedist who sees a lot of patients with joint problems every day.

Arthritis is treatable, but make sure you have a good orthopedic doctor diagnosing and treating you.

Dr. Rick Weinstein, MD, MBA is an orthopedic surgeon specializing in sports medicine. He is the Director of Orthopedic Surgery at Westchester Health Associates and has subspecialty training in knee and shoulder surgery, including minimally invasive surgery and arthroscopy. Dr. Weinstein is a Board Examiner for the American Board of Orthopedic Surgeons, determining certification for other orthopedic surgeons.