Dr. Rebecca Kerr, of the California Pain Institute, is skilled in the diagnosis, treatment and management of chronic pain from arthritis as well as acute flare-ups. She serves patients in the Torrance and Los Angeles area.
What Is Arthritis?
Although there are more than 100 different kinds of arthritis, the most common forms are degenerative arthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Degenerative arthritis occurs from wear and tear on the joints; the cartilage that covers the ends of the bone wears away, causing friction and pain. Rheumatoid arthritis is an inflammatory condition in which the immune system mistakenly attacks the body. It is more common in women. Other types of arthritis include metabolic arthritis (gout) and infectious arthritis, which results from a bacterial, viral or fungal infection in the joints.
What Are the Symptoms of Arthritis?
Chronic pain, especially joint pain, is the classic symptom of arthritis. Pain may occur in any joint and can occur at rest. Joint stiffness, tenderness, and swelling are also common. Fatigue may occur as part of the disease or may be related to disrupted sleep from pain. Patients may develop muscle weakness or decreased the range of motion as joints become increasingly stiff or deformed. Bumps on the fingers and bony outgrowths in fingers and toes may also occur. Symptoms may periodically become worse (flare-up), especially in rheumatoid arthritis.
How Is Arthritis Treated?
Medications for arthritis include pain relievers and anti-inflammatory drugs. Sometimes, treatment can cause arthritis to go into remission – remove most or all of the symptoms for a period of time. Exercise, massage, physical therapy and nutritional counseling can be effective in some forms of arthritis. For example, sugar can increase the inflammatory response in arthritis, while gout flares often occur after drinking wine. Cortisone injections are also effective in treating arthritis.
Biologics target specific parts of the immune system and may be used in inflammatory conditions like rheumatoid or psoriatic arthritis. In these conditions, Dr. Kerr will co-manage with the Rheumatologist or Gastroenterologist, who prescribe the biologics while Dr. Kerr helps the patients to manage the pain.
What About Self-Management?
In addition to taking medications as prescribed, self-management strategies can help people who are living with arthritis. Excess weight can increase the stress on joints, so weight loss and weight maintenance can be vitally important in keeping pain under control. Although exercise is important to keep joints flexible, rest is also necessary. Each patient must work out a balance between the two. Supportive treatments like massage therapy, ice for inflammation or heat for muscle soreness can promote day-to-day comfort. Changing to an anti-inflammatory diet as well as using anti-inflammatory nutritional supplements may also improve arthritis symptoms as well as joint swelling. Keeping a positive attitude also has an effect.