A person cannot reverse arthritis, but they can manage their symptoms. Arthritis commonly causes joint inflammation with swelling, pain, stiffness, and decreased range of motion.

According to the Arthritis Foundation, almost 60 million adults and 300,000 children have some form of arthritis. It is the leading cause of disability in the United States.

The symptoms of arthritis can come and go. A person’s symptoms may remain the same for years or worsen over time.

If a person develops severe arthritis, they may experience chronic pain and be unable to carry out daily activities.

This article examines the symptoms of arthritis and how people can manage them. It also discusses the treatment options for people living with arthritis.

Rear view image of a man wearing a hat.Share on Pinterest
Thanasis Zovoilis/Getty Images

There is no cure for arthritis, which is a chronic condition that will persist throughout a person’s life.

However, medical treatments and home remedies, including lifestyle changes, can help people manage the symptoms of arthritis.

The symptoms of arthritis include:

  • Pain: A person with arthritis may experience pain in the joints or in other parts of the body. Arthritis pain can be constant, or it may come and go.
  • Swelling around the joints: Arthritis may cause the tissue around affected joints to swell up. The skin in this area may appear flushed and feel warm to the touch. If a person has swelling around a joint that lasts for 3 days or longer or occurs more than three times a month, they should contact a doctor.
  • Stiff joints: Arthritis can also cause a person’s joints to become stiff. Stiffness is particularly common when waking up in the morning, after sitting down for a while, or after driving a car for a long time. If a person’s morning stiffness lasts more than an hour, they may have arthritis.
  • Issues moving the joints: In time, a person with arthritis may find that their joints become difficult to move.

What is osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common form of arthritis, affecting more than 32.5 million adults in the U.S.

OA causes the cartilage within a joint to break down over time, which can then cause the underlying bone within the joint to change.

OA most commonly affects the joints in the hands, hips, and knees.

The symptoms of OA include pain, stiffness, and swelling in and around the affected joints. These symptoms usually develop slowly and worsen over time. OA can cause reduced joint function and may lead to disability.

What is rheumatoid arthritis?

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease. This means that it occurs when a person’s immune system mistakenly attacks healthy cells in their body.

RA most commonly attacks a person’s joints and causes inflammation, which can lead to pain and swelling in the joints.

The condition can affect multiple joints at the same time, but the symptoms tend to appear in the hands, wrists, and knees.

The tissue damage that RA causes can cause chronic pain and potentially lead to the affected joints becoming misshapen.

Arthritis may cause joint pain due to inflammation. When the immune system mistakenly attacks a person’s joint tissues, it can affect the body in various ways, such as:

  • causing the joint to swell
  • increasing the amount of fluid in the joint
  • activating nerves within the joint

These symptoms can cause arthritis pain.

OA can cause a person’s cartilage to degenerate. Cartilage cushions the ends of the bones where they meet to form joints, stopping the bones from rubbing together.

When cartilage breaks down, the ends of bones can rub together when a person moves, which can be painful.

Arthritis symptoms are not the same as general joint pain. Arthritis symptoms result from inflammation, whereas joint pain occurs due to general wear and tear or as a result of other conditions.

There are several possible causes of joint pain that are not related to arthritis. These include:

Arthritis is not usually reversible. However, people can manage their arthritis to reduce the symptoms and improve their quality of life.

Below are some steps a person can take to manage their arthritis.

Become more active

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) state that regular physical activity can help relieve arthritis pain and improve joint function, mood, and quality of life.

The Arthritis Foundation adds that exercise can help by strengthening the muscles that support painful joints while also keeping the joints mobile. Exercise can also help a person lose excess weight, which reduces stress on the joints.

In addition, regular physical activity can reduce a person’s risk of developing other chronic diseases, including diabetes and heart disease.

Consider natural pain therapies

A person may also wish to use a variety of natural remedies to help manage their arthritis pain. The options include:

  • Acupuncture: Acupuncture is a form of Chinese medicine. It is the process of inserting thin needles through the skin at specific points on the body. It stimulates nerves, muscles, and connective tissue to improve blood flow and activate the body’s natural pain relievers.
  • Massage: Gentle massage can help reduce joint pain and joint stiffness. It may also improve a person’s range of motion. However, a person should avoid having a massage during a flare-up when their joints are sensitive.
  • Tai chi: Tai chi is another Chinese practice. It involves using gentle movements, deep breathing, and meditation. Tai chi can reduce joint pain and improve range of motion, joint function, and general well-being.
  • Yoga: Yoga is an ancient practice that originated in India. It involves deep breathing techniques, meditation, and a variety of body poses. Yoga may help improve joint pain and relaxation, as well as reducing joint stiffness and stress.

Maintain a body mass index (BMI) in the healthy range

According to the CDC, people with excess body weight have an increased risk of developing some types of arthritis.

In people who already have an arthritis diagnosis, reaching or maintaining a moderate weight can help reduce stress on arthritic joints, reducing pain and slowing the progress of the disease.

The CDC says that losing 10–12 pounds of excess weight can help reduce pain and improve joint function for people with arthritis.

Learn more about BMI.

Protect the joints

Joint injuries or overuse can cause repetitive stress and may contribute to the development of OA in that joint.

A person with arthritis should choose low impact activities that are easy on their joints, such as walking, cycling, and swimming.

Learn about 10 low impact exercises for arthritis of the knee.

Make dietary changes

Eating a diet high in omega-3 fatty acids may help prevent the development of arthritis or lessen its severity.

It may also be helpful to eat various other foods that can help fight inflammation and balance the immune system. However, dietary changes to boost the immune system may not be effective for people with autoimmune forms of arthritis, such as RA.

Learn about 10 foods that may boost the immune system.

Stop smoking

Smoking tobacco can increase a person’s risk of developing RA. People who smoke can likely reduce their chances of getting RA by quitting smoking.

Learn about 11 tips for giving up smoking.

Common treatments for OA include:

  • physical therapy with muscle-strengthening exercises
  • medications, including over-the-counter pain relievers and prescription drugs
  • the use of supportive devices, such as crutches or canes
  • arthritis surgery to repair or replace damaged sections of a person’s joints

Learn more about arthritis treatment.

Anyone with symptoms of arthritis should contact a doctor. Before visiting the doctor, it is helpful to keep track of all symptoms for a few weeks. A person can note what parts of the body are stiff and swollen and at what time of the day these symptoms occur. They can also note the duration of the symptoms and anything that helps ease them.

A doctor may perform physical tests to check a person’s range of motion if they suspect arthritis. They will also ask about the person’s medical history and order tests if necessary.

With the right treatment and lifestyle changes, people with arthritis can improve their quality of life and reduce their symptoms.

Evidence suggests that people with RA and other forms of inflammatory arthritis have an increased risk of death. However, mortality rates associated with RA have decreased in recent years.

RA can damage organ tissue over time, and people with RA are more likely to develop infections due to a weakened immune system. Over time, these complications can increase a person’s risk of death.

With early treatment and lifestyle changes, a person with RA or another form of inflammatory arthritis can manage their symptoms and improve their outlook.

There are more than 100 types of arthritis and other related conditions. Arthritis commonly causes joint inflammation and symptoms that include swelling, pain, stiffness, and decreased range of motion.

There is no cure for arthritis. However, a person can manage their arthritis in various ways to reduce their symptoms and improve their quality of life.

They can do this primarily by making lifestyle changes, such as maintaining a moderate weight, becoming or staying physically active, and avoiding activities that put added pressure on the joints.

A person can also undergo medical treatments to improve their symptoms. Common treatments include medications, physical therapy, and surgery.