By Dr Peter Kadile

Doc, I play a lot of guitar and my hands will hurt the next day. The pain is almost every day now, do I have arthritis?
-Mark, Morongo Valley

Mark, you may have osteoarthritis of the hands. Arthritis is a general term which means inflammation of the joints. I generally refer to osteoarthritis as the “wear and tear arthritis” as it develops over time with repetitive use of a joint or previous injuries to a joint. In osteoarthritis, the protective cushioning in the joint (cartilage) wears out and eventually bone will rub against bone. Additional bone growth may develop at the site of the inflammation resulting in bone spurs. Surrounding tissue such as tendons and ligaments can become affected and cause more pain to the area. In severe cases, the joints may become deformed and limit function and range of motion.

Common symptoms of arthritis are; joint pain and stiffness, swelling in the joints, a grinding or crunching sound in the joint with range of motion and decreased range of motion.

There is no cure for osteoarthritis, but there are several treatment options. If possible, modify the activity that causes the pain. Perform regular range of motion exercises to prevent stiffness to the joints. Moist heat to the area can also help relieve pain. Over the counter medications such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) can help reduce the pain along with ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil) and naprosyn (Aleve). Ibuprofen and naprosyn will help reduce the inflammation and decrease pain. These over the counter medication should only be taken as directed because they can cause liver and kidney damage if taken in excess. Supplements such as chondroitin and glucosamine may help reduce arthritis pain, but they need to be taken on a regular basis and the pain relieving effect may not become evident for several weeks. I have found that regular use of tumeric and omega 3 fish oil may also help reduce the pain and inflammation of arthritis.

Diet can also affect arthritis. Fried and processed food can trigger inflammation. Dairy, high amounts of sugar and salt can also trigger inflammation and increase joint pain. Research has shown that a diet rich in fruits and vegetables can help reduce inflammation and joint pain.

I think I may have arthritis in my feet, what is the difference between osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis?
-Jill, La Quinta

Jill, as I explained above, osteoarthritis develops over time and is a result of “wear and tear” on the joints. Rheumatoid arthritis is a result of your body’s own immune system attacking your joints. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease. Pain medication, supplements and dietary changes for treatment of rheumatoid arthritis are similar to osteoarthritis but treatment of rheumatoid arthritis may also include special medications that can modify the immune system thus controlling flare ups and pain.

Rheumatoid arthritis generally affects small and large joints on both sides of the body, whereas osteoarthritis usually affects one set of joints on one side of the body. Whole body symptoms are generally not present in osteoarthritis while people affected with rheumatoid arthritis can feel fatigued and general malaise.