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Understanding & Treating Arthritis
How to Better Manage Your Joint Pain
Nearly all of us experience stiff or sore joints from time to time, so how do we know when it’s time to see a doctor?
Join us as Dr. Kyle Ungvarsky, family doctor and sports medicine specialist with the Laurel Health Centers, discusses how arthritis impacts our bodies, what steps you can take to improve your joint health, and why it’s important to see your family doctor when joint pain starts.
What is arthritis?
Arthritis is an inflammation of the joints that can cause swelling and tenderness / pain. There are many different types of arthritis. Three of the most common types are osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and psoriatic arthritis.
Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common type, brought on by age and the daily wear-and-tear of our joints, which causes the cartilage that cushions our joints to gradually wear down.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune condition where your body attacks your joints, which can cause severe joint damage.
Psoriatic arthritis (PA) affects psoriasis patients, causing inflammation in the joints and skin. Having psoriasis increases your risk of developing this form of arthritis.
Risk factors for developing arthritis:
Genetics, age, gender, occupation, lifestyle, diet, level of activity, health conditions, and former injuries all play a role in our risk for developing arthritis. While we cannot modify risk factors like our age or genetics, healthy lifestyle habits can make a big difference in managing arthritis. See tips for managing arthritis pain below.
How is it diagnosed?
Because arthritis symptoms may come and go, present in different ways, or change in severity throughout the day, an in-depth evaluation is needed to properly diagnose it.
Your doctor may ask you about your:
- Family history of arthritis and other inflammatory conditions like gout or IBD
- Occupation / work history, especially repetitive motion like typing, lifting, or bending
- Injury history (e.g., sprains, breaks, ligament tears)
Following a thorough discussion of your medical history, your doctor may perform:
- A physical exam to evaluate your functional movement, joints, and posture
- Bloodwork to look for specific inflammation markers
- Imaging exams in weight-bearing poses to evaluate joint health
How can we successfully treat arthritis to get back activities we love?
Just as there are many types of arthritis, there are many approaches to treating its symptoms to improve mobility and manage pain. Your arthritis type and personal health history determine which treatments are appropriate. You should always talk to your family doctor before starting a treatment plan.
Approaches for managing arthritis pain:
- Lifestyle changes: diet and exercise can help you alleviate symptoms
- Eat more joint-friendly foods like nuts, fruits, vegetables, and fish
- Modify your job or physical routine (e.g., proper lifting or running techniques)
- Cook with natural anti-inflammatory foods like turmeric
Lose weight to reduce joint pressure and stress
- Over-the-counter symptom relief: nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID) like Advil / Ibuprofen or Motrin can be used to reduce pain and joint inflammation; OTC drugs should be used as advised by your physician
- Prescribed medications: Depending on your type of arthritis, your doctor may prescribe oral or infused medications specifically designed to fight RA joint damage
- Physical therapy and at-home exercises: your doctor and physical therapist can create a set of safe exercises to improve mobility and reduce stiffness / pain.
What are the benefits of talking to your doctor proactively about joint pain?
It is important to take control of joint damage early. While arthritis typically starts to affect patients in their mid-30s or 40s, it can impact patients who are younger, including children. If you or a loved one are experiencing joint stiffness, pain, and swelling, talk to your doctor.
As both a certified family medicine doctor and sports medicine specialist, Dr. Kyle Ungvarsky offers unique insight into how arthritis affects our range of motion and how it can be effectively treated to get you back to the activities you love safely and quickly.
Are you or a loved one suffering from joint pain? Make an appointment with Dr. Ungvarsky in Wellsboro at 570-724-1010 for a comprehensive evaluation and personalized treatment plan. To learn more about the Laurel Health Centers, visit laurelhc.org or facebook.com/laurelhc.
Videography: Andrew Moore
Video Editing: Andrew Moore
Writing: Kristy Warren
Anchor: Rhonda Pearson
Correspondent: Sara Vogt
Produced by Vogt Media
Funded by Laurel Health Centers
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