Arthritis

What are drug-free treatments to relieve osteoarthritis hand pain?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I have osteoarthritis in my hand. Could you recommend some drug-free treatments to relieve the pain?

DEAR READER: Osteoarthritis causes stiffness and pain in the joints. It develops when cartilage -- the connective tissue that covers the ends of bones -- deteriorates. In a joint, the ends of two or more bones come together. The softer and more flexible cartilage that covers the ends of the bones acts as a cushion. If the cartilage were not there, the hard bones would grind against each other.

Should I take a joint support supplement if I have osteoarthritis?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I have osteoarthritis. It's improved some with physical therapy and weight loss, but not entirely. Should I give "joint support" supplements a try? Which ones?

DEAR READER: Your question reminds me of two of my patients. "John" was a man in his 50s whose pain from arthritis in his knees made it hard for him to play pickup basketball. Physical therapy and pain medicines helped, but not completely.

What is happening in my body that causes rheumatoid arthritis pain?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I have rheumatoid arthritis. Can you explain what is happening in my body to cause such uncomfortable symptoms?

DEAR READER: Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic (long-term) disease. It causes painful and sometimes disabling inflammation of the joints. RA can also affect other tissues in the body, such as the skin, eyes, lungs and blood vessels. RA is an autoimmune disease.

Is psoriasis linked to arthritis and heart disease?

DEAR DOCTOR K: My doctor thinks my arthritis and heart disease are connected to my psoriasis. Is this possible? I thought psoriasis was a skin condition.

DEAR READER: Psoriasis (pronounced so-RYE-uh-sis) is named for an ancient Greek word meaning an itchy or scaly condition. It is classified as a skin disease, but psoriasis is the result of an immune system abnormality that can cause problems throughout the body. With psoriasis, white blood cells of the immune system become overactive.

How can I manage my arthritis pain while traveling?

DEAR DOCTOR K: Can you give me advice for managing arthritis pain while traveling?

DEAR READER: Vacations often involve being more physically active than normal, which can worsen arthritis pain. But arthritis doesn't have to spoil your vacation. I spoke to my colleague Dr. Susan Ritter, associate physician in the Division of Rheumatology, Immunology and Allergy at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women's Hospital. She made the following suggestions to help make travel relatively pain- and hassle-free:

Why take NSAIDs for osteoarthritis pain?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I have osteoarthritis. My doctor recommends NSAIDs over acetaminophen for pain relief. Why? What is the advantage?

DEAR READER: The answer to your question lies in the type of damage osteoarthritis inflicts. Osteoarthritis results from the deterioration of cartilage, the tough, flexible tissue that covers the ends of your bones at every joint in your body. The cartilage is a cushion that keeps one bone from grinding against another bone.

How can I exercise with arthritis?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I have arthritis, which makes it difficult for me to get up and around. But I'd still like to exercise regularly. Any suggestions?

DEAR READER: Many of my patients with arthritis have the same question. They want to exercise regularly, but they have a medical condition that interferes with their mobility. Or their joints are so sore and stiff from arthritis that they have difficulty getting around. I'll tell you what I tell them: The more you move, the more your ability to exercise will grow.

I have knee osteoarthritis. Are there exercises that could relieve my pain?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I have knee osteoarthritis. Are there exercises that could relieve my pain?

DEAR READER: As a fellow sufferer, I know that joint pain from osteoarthritis can really interfere with life. Since putting pressure on the joint can make it hurt more, you might think that exercises would only make the pain worse, and so you might be tempted to avoid exercising altogether.

Does glucosamine and chondroitin help relieve osteoarthritis pain?

DEAR DOCTOR K: What's the verdict on glucosamine and chondroitin? Do they help relieve osteoarthritis pain?

DEAR READER: Whether glucosamine and chondroitin pills help osteoarthritis pain has been controversial. As with most medical controversies, there rarely is a verdict that everyone accepts. So I'm not sure there is a verdict yet in this controversy. In fact, I'm going to argue that the controversy may be misguided: It may not be a question of whether these pills help everyone with osteoarthritis or not.

If my joints hurt does that mean I have osteoarthritis?

DEAR DOCTOR K: My joints hurt. Does that mean I have osteoarthritis?

DEAR READER: Your knee aches from time to time, or maybe your fingers don't seem as nimble as they used to be. That doesn't mean you have osteoarthritis -- but you might.

There are many different kinds of arthritis. They all damage the cartilage, the flexible tissue lining joints. Every joint is a spot where two (or more) bones meet. The cartilage in a joint keeps bone from rubbing against bone.