An estimated 50 million adults in the United States suffer from some form of arthritis. In fact, there are more than 100 different types of arthritis, which causes painful inflammation of the joints.
Experts say, however, there are steps sufferers can take to help minimize and manage arthritis pain. These steps can range from something as simple as a diet change to in extreme circumstances, surgery.
Before learning what steps someone with arthritis should take to manage pain, it is important to diagnose the type of arthritis and determine a treatment plan, says Dr. Tania Ghosh, a member of Porter Physician Group and a Geriatrician and internal medicine specialist with Glendale Primary Care in Valparaiso.
"The diagnosis is made starting with history," Ghosh says. "Most of the time, the way in which the arthritis started, the duration of the problem, the course of its progression, and other associated symptoms and physical findings noted upon examination guide the physician toward the probably diagnosis."
That diagnosis is often then confirmed with the help of radiological testing like X-rays and MRIs, as well as blood work.
"The underlying cause for the arthritis determines the modality of treatment," Ghosh says.
Overall health can have a direct impact on the amount of pain associated with arthritis, Ghosh says.
"If it is related to weight, the most important lifestyle change is diet, exercise and weight loss," she says.
Arthritis related to Gout - a complex form of arthritis that can be extremely painful - could benefit from dietary modifications as well, Ghosh says.
The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine recommends avoiding dairy products, citrus fruits, sugar, fats, caffeine and nightshade plants - tomatoes and eggplant, for example.
Studies have shown other changes, like adding polyunsaturated oils and omega-3 supplements to a diet, can have mild, beneficial effects.
Vegan diets - because of their low-fat and high in antioxidant qualities - have shown to be beneficial to managing the inflammation associated with arthritis as well, according to the organization.
If lifestyle changes don't minimize the pain, Ghosh says mediation is a possible course of action physicians may prescribe.
Ultimately, she says, treatment is determined by the cause of the arthritis.
"That could vary from different types and strengths of pain pills, oral medications that help in reducing the inflammation in the joint, injections into the affected joints, and medications that are used to treat any systemic problems that might be causing the arthritis," she says.
If there is significant damage to the joint, which is not benefiting from medical management, surgery is sometimes required, she says.
Examples include finger and hand surgeries to correct joint problems in the hand, arthroscopy that removes debris or inflamed tissue in a joint through a small lighted instrument, and arthroplasty to replace part or all of a joint in the hip or knee.