What is the outlook for someone with arthritis?
To date, there is no known medical cure for any of the various forms of arthritis. A tailored treatment plan, coupled with overall lifestyle adjustments usually produces the best results. The general outlook for arthritic symptoms is that this condition will require a lifelong commitment to taking the best care possible in managing its physical effects and preventing further damage.
Factors that come into play include regular exercise that allows for more joint flexibility without added pressure, plenty of rest which helps to promote healing and allows the body restorative benefits, loss of excess weight or maintaining a healthy weight, a healthy diet rich in antioxidants, and the use of mobility assistance devices (walkers or canes) and heating or cooling packs and compresses.
For the most part, the outlook for this condition is dependent on individual factors. How severe is the condition? Are there any known current or potential complications to manage? Are there any signs of non-joint manifestations of the condition, such as those affecting organs (lungs, eyes, kidneys etc.)?
Your doctor will look at your individual condition and make tailored recommendations to ensure optimum well-being and disease management. Combination treatments will likely provide the most comfortable results.
Can arthritis be prevented?
With some risk factors being beyond human control, there is no real way to prevent the onset of arthritic conditions. Prevention may be achievable, to some degree, if you can avoid joint injuries, piling on excess body weight or contracting certain infections during your lifetime. There is, however, no guarantee that if you are more susceptible to arthritis that it won’t develop at all.
What you can do is reduce your risk and potentially delay the onset of symptoms or influence their potential severity. The best means of ‘prevention’ is to take the best care of the body you have now, in its current state. If healthier changes are necessary (for instance, your diet or exercise habits), implement them.
I’ve heard that cracking your knuckles can cause arthritis – is this true?
It is estimated that between 24% and 54% of people develop knuckle-cracking habits. For this reason, studies have been conducted to determine a direct causal link to the development of arthritis. To date, no definitive links have been made.
That doesn’t mean you can happily continue cracking your knuckles, however. A conclusively proven causal link may not have been determined as yet, but a very high percentage of study participants who regularly crack their knuckles did develop arthritis symptoms in their hands. A slightly lower percentage who didn’t regularly crack their knuckles also developed arthritis in the hand joints. Causal links may have more to do with unmodifiable risk factors, such as genetics, age and sex than the action of cracking knuckles.
While knuckle cracking may not be directly responsible for the development of arthritis, what it does do is increase your risk for injury. When a joint locks due to cracking, inflammation in the hands increases and weakens functionality (such as the ability to grip). This can lead to similar symptoms of arthritis such as swelling, pain, the development of noises when moving, and decreased motion ability.
The cracking sound effectively comes from the formation of a cavity in the joint. The more obsessive the habit, the higher the risk for injury. The best way to break the habit if it is causing great discomfort or affecting your grip capabilities is to try and keep the hands busy (distract yourself or snap a rubber band around the wrist).