While arthritis is increasingly common as the population continues to age, it is not inevitable. There are many, many types of arthritis, but osteoarthritis is the most common. According to the Arthritis Foundation, arthritis can damage almost any joint, but mostly strikes the spine, hips, knees and hands.

Arthritis, or inflammation of the joints, happens when the cartilage or cushion between the bones in the joints wears down, explained Endeavor Health orthopaedic surgeon Anand Srinivasan, MD.

“Cartilage can naturally degrade over time, so the chances of incurring some arthritis increases as you get older, but that doesn’t mean that it’s imminent,” he added.

Importantly, there are viable strategies to reduce the effects of arthritis or minimize its progress. “The biggest factor contributing to osteoarthritis is weight; carrying extra weight affects all joints, putting added strain and wear and tear on them,” said Dr. Srinivasan, who is director of the Anterior Hip Replacement Program at Endeavor Health Orthopaedic & Spine Institute.

Repetitive motion, particularly for those who do physically taxing work like construction and labor, can lead to earlier wear and tear, added Dr. Srinivasan.

And what about genetics? There is not a well-established predictive factor similar to genetically-inherited diseases, explained Dr. Srinivasan, but we can inherit certain body types or bone structures that may lead to higher risk for developing arthritis.

5 tips to manage arthritis pain

  1. Maintain a healthy body weight. This is the number one way to help prevent the most common type of arthritis, and while ideally the earlier that starts the better, it’s never too late to lose the extra weight and added strain on your joints, advised Dr. Srinivasan.
  2. Stay active. Keeping muscles and surrounding tissue as strong and supple as possible is also helpful in prolonging the onset of arthritis or minimizing its effects, said Dr. Srinivasan, who encourages patients to stay as active as they can, even with the presence of minimal arthritis pain or stiffness.
  3. Meet with a physical therapist (PT). A trained PT can help develop personalized strength and stretching exercises to develop the muscles around specific joints impacted by arthritis. For those who find themselves with regular or increasing pain from arthritis this is often the first line of proactive management.
  4. Incorporate other pain relief options. In addition to physical therapy, there are other effective conservative options to consider for pain relief, including over the counter anti-inflammatory medications, prescription anti-inflammatories when advised by a physician, holistic approaches like acupuncture and massage therapy, steroid injections, viscosupplementation (hyaluronic acid injections) and regenerative medicine treatments.
  5. Meet with an orthopaedic surgeon. When conservative measures are not enough and arthritis causes enough pain and dysfunction to disrupt your quality of life, it’s likely time to meet with an orthopaedic surgeon.

“One of the things to keep in mind is that while there is no one age that is too old for surgery, risk goes up as one gets older, and generally that means for those 80 and older their risks for surgery are higher,” said Dr. Srinivasan. “If someone is on the fence about whether to consider joint replacement surgery it’s often advisable to do it when you are relatively younger and still otherwise healthy.”

Technology for minimally invasive joint replacement surgery including advanced robotics and newer implants continues to improve, further reducing variabilities and improving patient outcomes, he added.

Endeavor Health Skokie Hospital is the state’s only specialty hospital dedicated to orthopaedic and spine care.