What Factors Make Arthritis Worse?
Summit arthritis specialist Jerome Perra, M.D., explains why arthritis pain is worse for some people.
The pain, inflammation, and swelling of osteoarthritis can make daily activities a struggle. If you’re an arthritis sufferer, you probably know a lot about arthritis treatments. But why do some people have arthritis, while others don’t? Is there a way to reduce or avoid arthritis symptoms? Is it possible to avoid making arthritis worse?
There are some factors you can’t control. They include:
Some people’s genetic makeup means that their cartilage doesn’t last as long as others’ cartilage. For example, it may break down after 50 years, while other people have healthy cartilage for 100 years. “Some people have joint replacements at a young age because their cartilage doesn’t repair as well,” Dr. Perra said. Over time, that cartilage damage results in arthritis.
In general, cartilage damage is difficult for your body to repair. That’s because cartilage has relatively few cells and a low blood supply, both of which are crucial to the body’s healing processes.
From a torn ligament to a direct impact to your joint, injuries can result in arthritis. In some cases, cartilage can be damaged even if it is not visible on an X-ray. “Torn ligaments can cause joint imbalances and instability, both of which can overload the cartilage and cause worsening arthritis,” Dr. Perra said.
Bad joint alignment
Even with no injury, some joints are not aligned properly. This malalignment can overload one side of the joint, increasing the strain on the cartilage and breaking it down more quickly.
So, is there anything you can do to avoid making arthritis worse? Yes. The goal is to protect your joints by preventing your cartilage from being overloaded.
Extra weight has a big impact on arthritis. “Obesity increases the force on joints, overloading the cartilage and beginning to break it down. Once that damage is done, the joint does not recover, even if the person loses significant weight later,” Dr. Perra said.
While losing weight can’t reverse cartilage damage, it can stop or slow down future damage by returning the force on the joint to a level that the joint was built to handle.
The redness and swelling that accompanies an arthritis flare-up is caused by inflammation. In some diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis or gout, the body’s inflammatory cells attack the tissues of the joint. There are also instances in which a person has low-level inflammation throughout the body. Taking steps to reduce inflammation can help.
Infections inside a joint can destroy cartilage in a matter of days. If you have symptoms of a joint infection, see your doctor right away to avoid arthritis-worsening damage.
When to seek treatment for your arthritis
Arthritis doesn’t have to spell the end of an active life. If you are experiencing worrisome symptoms or persistent pain, the renowned arthritis specialists at Summit Orthopedics can help. We work with you to confirm a diagnosis and develop an appropriate conservative treatment plan. If nonsurgical treatments fail to support your lifestyle goals, fellowship-trained orthopedic surgeons will consult with you and discuss appropriate surgical options. Summit is home to innovative joint replacement options. Our Vadnais Heights Surgery Center is one of a select few nationally to receive The Joint Commission’s Advanced Certification for Total Hip and Total Knee Replacement.
Summit has convenient locations across the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area, serving Minnesota and western Wisconsin. We have state-of-the-art centers for comprehensive orthopedic care in Eagan, MN, Plymouth, MN, Vadnais Heights, MN, and Woodbury, MN, as well as additional community clinics throughout the metro and southern Minnesota.
More resources for you
Summit’s arthritis specialists offer a broad range of nonsurgical treatments to manage arthritis pain.
These arthritis-safe exercise guidelines will help you confidently maintain an exercise program that won’t cause further damage to your joints.
Ask the Expert: Arthritis Video Series