How To Identify and Treat Chronic Pain and Arthritis

More than 100 million Americans suffer from chronic pain. Learn how to identify symptoms and discover a treatment method that works for you!

Over 100 million people in the United States suffer from some form of chronic pain. Within that figure, 54 million American adults have a sub-category of chronic pain called arthritis. To learn how to treat chronic pain and arthritis, you’ll need to understand the symptoms, their causes and who these conditions most commonly affect.

Chronic Pain Symptoms and Causes

Chronic pain is any type of muscle or joint pain that lasts longer than 6 months. The condition has a wide range of causes that can affect all parts of the body, sometimes making it difficult to identify, address and treat. Unlike acute pain, chronic pain persists well after your injury is healed.

Chronic pain can affect people of any age, gender, race or background. Causes of chronic pain can include headaches and migraines, neck, back and spinal pain, cancer, systemic diseases, fibromyalgia and the aftermath of a traumatic injury caused by a strenuous activity.

If you think you may have this condition, look for these common chronic pain symptoms:

  • Sore joints or muscles
  • Deep, achy pain
  • Sharp shooting or burning pain
  • Limited range of motion
  • Fatigue and decreased energy

How To Treat Chronic Pain

The first step to treating chronic pain is talking to your doctor about your symptoms, so they can help you identify their source. Once identified, your doctor will work with you to find the best combination of treatments to help alleviate your pain. It’s important to explore all your options, but here are a few examples:

Non-pharmacological pain management includes physical therapy or occupational therapy to help you regain strength and mobility. Many also find relief through methods like massage and acupuncture. Meditation and behavioral management can also help target chronic pain from another angle.

Medicinal pain management alleviates chronic pain through medicines such as acetaminophen, nonsteroidals, antidepressants and even antiepileptics, which target nerve pain neurologically.

Chronic pain can be both physically and emotionally taxing, but the good news is there is no shortage of methods to ease your symptoms.

Arthritis Symptoms and Causes

Arthritis is a condition that causes joint inflammation and chronic pain that can last a lifetime. The origin of this disease depends on its type, with rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis being the most common. Osteoarthritis is caused by either degenerative wear-and-tear or repetitive trauma. Rheumatoid arthritis is when your immune system attacks your body’s joint tissue.

There are a variety of factors that can increase your risk for arthritis. Although the condition affects children and adults alike, the risk increases as you age or gain weight — especially with osteoarthritis. Athletes are also vulnerable because of the repetitive trauma placed on their joints. Smoking, family history and abnormal joint tissue are common causes, as well.

Finally, if you crack your knuckles, don’t worry — contrary to popular belief, this does not lead to arthritis.

With arthritis, symptoms creep up on you over time. Look for:

  • Joint pain (sharp or dull)
  • Stiffness
  • Swelling (especially with rheumatoid)
  • Fatigue
  • Aching for over 6 months
  • Inhibited daily functions

How to Treat Arthritis

If you’re experiencing symptoms of arthritis, you should visit your doctor right away to get on top of the pain! Your physician will perform lab work and imaging to provide a diagnosis and form a treatment plan around your needs.

If you have osteoarthritis, you’ll have to rely on mostly non-pharmacological pain management, like exercising, stretching, attending physical therapy and applying topical ointments. However, Tylenol, N-SAIDS and joint injections have proven effective to an extent.

For rheumatoid arthritis, your doctor will prescribe medication to stop your immune system from attacking your joints. Unlike osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis treatment can prevent progression of the disease. Doctors hope to find total cures for both types of arthritis in the near future.

If you feel any arthritis or chronic pain symptoms, speak with your doctor before it becomes severe. With many treatment methods available, you may be able to return to all your favorite activities in no time.

To learn more about how to treat chronic pain, find a nearby Valleywise Community Health Center or call 1 (833) VLLYWSE to schedule an in-person or virtual appointment.



About the Author

Sheetal Chhaya D.O., F.A.C.R. - Internal Medicine

Dr. Sheetal Chaya is a District Medical Group Attending Physician at Valleywise Health in the Department of Internal Medicine. She is Chief of the Division of Rheumatology and also serves as Medical Director of the Department of Medical Subspecialties. She is an Assistant Professor, Health Sciences Associated Faculty Department of Medicine for Creighton University School of Medicine.

Dr. Chhaya also holds a Clinical Assistant Professor position through the University of Arizona Department of Internal Medicine. She completed her Internal Medicine Residency at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey - Robert Wood Johnson University and completed her Fellowship in Rheumatology at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation.

She went on to join the faculty at Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School before moving to Arizona where she has been a part of District Medical Group since 2010. She continues to practice clinical Rheumatology while also teaching in the Internal Medicine Residency Program as well as guest lecturing at various venues including Arizona State University where she will often speak on topics regarding Social Determinants of Health Care. Dr. Chhaya is Board Certified by the American College of Rheumatology.

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