Diagnosis & Treatment Arthritis
How is Arthritis Diagnosed?Diagnosis
If you think you have arthritis, make an appointment with your healthcare provider to discuss the symptoms you are experiencing. Arthritis can negatively impact your life, making it difficult to perform ordinary daily activities like walking, bending, or even holding things in your hands.
Your doctor will ask questions about your family history and if other people in your family are affected by arthritis. A physical exam, and possibly imaging exams, will be necessary to reveal any underlying conditions causing your discomfort. An X-ray of the area can also reveal the extent of the joint damage and how it’s progressing.
Additionally, MRIs are most helpful in allowing doctors to assess and diagnose the level of damage caused by arthritis.
How is Arthritis Treated?Treatments
There are currently no known cures for arthritis, but fortunately, treatments are available to help manage the condition and relieve some symptoms. Treatment options will differ according to the type and the severity of your arthritis.
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) – NSAIDs are usually the first course of action used to treat osteoarthritis pain and swelling. There are a variety of over-the-counter creams or ointments which can offer temporary relief from arthritis pain.
- Immunomodulatory drugs – These drugs modify the immune system response to treat some inflammatory arthritis, such as gout and rheumatoid arthritis. Effective treatment can enable patients to return to normal life activities.
- Healthy eating habits – Eating fish high in Omega-3s, such as salmon, twice a week is known to modestly reduce inflammation of the joints
- Quitting smoking – Stopping smoking has a number of positive health benefits, including reducing inflammation from arthritis
- Exercise – Staying active, keeping a healthy weight, and controlling your blood sugar can all aid in reducing the inflammation caused by arthritis
- Surgery – Surgical options for arthritis are only recommended in severe cases. Arthritis damages the joints. In some cases, the progression of joint damage can become so severe and the pain so intense that a person may opt for surgery as their last option.
At NewYork-Presbyterian our most knowledgeable surgeons, together with the use of state-of-the-art equipment and procedures, provide the expertise needed for orthopedic surgery. The most common procedures for arthritis include:
- Joint repair – Joint repair can sometimes be performed arthroscopically by inserting surgical tools into a small incision in the joint, thus allowing the surgeon to smooth or realign a joint to decrease pain and increase mobility
- Joint replacement – A standard surgical procedure used to treat hips and knees. It involves replacing a damaged joint with an artificial one.
- Joint fusion – A procedure in which the ends of two bones are fused to heal in one complete bone. This procedure is usually done on smaller joints such as fingers, wrists, and ankles.
- Ultrasound – Ultrasound allows doctors and patients to view clear pictures of joints and tendons. This procedure improves the accuracy of injections to deliver medications to reduce pain and inflammation.
Once surgery has been performed on a joint, rehabilitation is necessary to assist in the movement of the new joint. Our therapists choose exercises that can help you regain mobility, strength, and flexibility in your arthritic joints. You may receive:
- Physical therapy. Physical therapists use a variety of techniques to help you get moving, reduce your pain, restore your function, and prevent disability. Many of our physical therapists are certified by the American Physical Therapy Association as orthopedic clinical specialists. Your physical therapist will show you what to do during each session, but it is important for you to do “homework” exercises to fully benefit from the treatment.
- Occupational therapy. Occupational therapists help you refine the skills of daily living, such as taking care of yourself, getting dressed, writing, and regaining balance and coordination. Occupational therapy can be especially effective for people with arthritis in the fingers, hands, arms, and shoulders. You will receive guidance on exercises you can do at home to ensure you receive the full benefit of your therapy.
- Aquatic therapy. NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center offers therapy in a warm swimming pool that provides a comfortable place to perform exercises and activities that may be too difficult to do outside of the water. Aquatic therapy includes relaxation exercises, mobility exercises, strengthening, stretching, and walking exercises that many people with arthritis find helpful.
- Medications. A number of medications—including anti-inflammatory drugs taken orally and applied to the skin—can help reduce the joint pain caused by arthritis. Injections. Our physiatrists are skilled in the use of joint injections of corticosteroids (such as cortisone) and hyaluronic acid gels, guided with ultrasound to ensure accurate placement, to improve joint function and reduce pain. Your doctor will let you know if joint injections may be useful as part of your overall treatment plan.
- Regenerative therapies. Our doctors are evaluating regenerative therapies, which promote the body’s own healing abilities, for the treatment of arthritis. We are specialists in the use of these regenerative treatments for chronic tendon, ligament, muscle, and joint pain, and are now actively researching their effectiveness for arthritis care.
What does arthritis feel like?
Arthritis is a condition that affects your joints, causing stiffness and diminished range of motion along with pain and swelling.
What food is good for arthritis?
Fish high in Omega-3s (e.g., salmon, trout, mackerel) have been proven to reduce inflammation if taken in fairly large amounts. Many other products have been touted as good for arthritis, but none have been definitively proven to be effective (e.g., garlic, ginger, broccoli, tart cherry juice, walnuts, spinach, grapes, and olive oil). A healthy diet such as the Mediterranean diet may be the best approach.
How do you know if you have arthritis?
A health care professional can correctly diagnose arthritis. If you experience painful, swollen joints that feel tender or exhibit knobby outgrowths on fingers, evaluation by your doctor or a specialist (rheumatologist or orthopedist) will determine what type of arthritis you have. Since arthritis can become debilitating, early detection is important for treatment and relief.
What causes arthritis flare-ups?
Overworking your joints or damage to an area can cause an arthritis flare-up. Damage to the cartilage or bone can bring on a flare-up of arthritis. A change in weather may also contribute to pain and swelling in the joints.
Trust NewYork-Presbyterian for Arthritis Treatment
Arthritis treatment is available at NewYork-Presbyterian throughout the New York City metropolitan area. If you are experiencing symptoms of arthritis, which include joint pain and swelling, make an appointment now with a healthcare professional before joint damage can progress.