Weather and Arthritis: Is There Really a Connection?

Weather and Arthritis: Is There Really a Connection?

It’s long been conventional wisdom that weather makes arthritis pain worse.

The issue has been studied through the years, with conflicting findings. But three recent studies found weather does have some impact, said Dr. Robert Shmerling, writing for the Harvard Health Blog.

In one study with 222 participants who had arthritis of the hip, researchers from The Netherlands found that patients reported slightly worse pain and stiffness as barometric pressure and humidity rose, but the weather effect was small.

Another study looked at weather-related symptoms among 800 European adults with arthritis of the hip, knee or hands. They reported increasing pain and stiffness with higher humidity, especially in cold weather. In general, changes in weather didn’t affect their symptoms, though.

Participants of a third study reported their chronic pain symptoms. Most of the 2,600 individuals had some type of arthritis. This study found “modest relationships” between pain and higher humidity, lower atmospheric pressure and higher wind speed.

Past studies have looked at the impact of rain, humidity and rising or falling barometric pressure. Humidity, temperature, precipitation and barometric pressure may all be involved, Shmerling said.

“Having reviewed the studies, I find myself not knowing how to answer my patients who ask me why their symptoms reliably worsen when the weather is damp or rain is coming, or when some other weather event happens,” Shmerling said in a Harvard Health news release. “I usually tell them that, first, I believe there is a connection between weather and joint symptoms, and second, researchers have been unable to figure out just what matters most about the weather and arthritis symptoms or why there should be a connection.”

Whether it’s helpful to know the impact of weather is also not clear. The new studies will probably not have an impact on individual arthritis sufferers until weather or internal environments can be precisely controlled.

Still, identifying a link may help with understanding the causes and mechanisms of arthritis symptoms, which could lead to better treatments or preventive strategies, Shmerling said.

“In addition, figuring out why some people seem to feel worse in certain circumstances while others notice no change [or even feel better] in those same environments could help us understand subtle differences between types of arthritis or the ways individuals respond to them,” he said.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on arthritis.

SOURCE: Harvard Health Blog, news release, June 22, 2020

Copyright ©2022 HealthDay. All rights reserved.
Experiencing Trigger Finger?

Experiencing Trigger Finger?

Can’t move your finger? It could be due to an orthopedic condition known as trigger finger. Learn more about the causes and treatments. 

We use our fingers so much in our daily lives — from typing to grasping objects to pointing and much more — that we often take these moveable joints for granted. But if your finger suddenly stiffens and you can’t accomplish your normal daily tasks, you’re sure to stop taking those joints for granted fast. What’s behind this stiffening? It’s most likely an orthopedic condition known as trigger finger.

Trigger finger can affect any finger, including the thumb, and may strike a single digit or multiple at once. Common trigger finger symptoms include general stiffness or a finger locking in a bent position. You may hear a clicking sound when you move your finger or feel soreness or a lump at the base of the finger. Treatment for trigger finger starts with conservative methods of rest and physical therapy. But first, let’s look at what causes trigger finger.

Trigger Finger Causes

Trigger finger, also known as stenosing tenosynovitis, or flexor tendonitis, is an inflammation of the sheath covering the tendon in the finger. The sheath allows the tendon to move freely. But when it’s irritated or inflamed, the finger stiffens and cannot straighten itself. Prolonged inflammation can also lead to scarring and bumps forming in the tendon, which further restricts the finger’s ability to move.

Similar to so many other orthopedic disorders, trigger finger develops as a result of repetitive motions. People who work at jobs requiring them to continually grasp or bend their fingers, such as musicians, tend to develop trigger finger in greater numbers. People who have diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, or who have had carpal tunnel syndrome surgery before stand a greater chance of developing trigger finger. The condition also strikes more women than men.

Treating Trigger Finger: Home Remedies

Your orthopedist can diagnose trigger finger with a physical examination to feel for any areas of tenderness or swelling. During the examination you will also be asked to open and close your hand to pinpoint the center of the pain or see if your finger locks up.

Initial trigger finger treatments typically involve conservative methods, beginning with avoiding activities that cause the pain and stiffness. You may need to wear a splint to immobilize the finger and give the tendon time to heal. This period of rest could take between four to six weeks.

If your trigger finger is caused by an underlying chronic condition such as diabetes or rheumatoid arthritis (instead of just repetitive motions), treatment for those disorders can help relieve the symptoms of trigger finger.

Another treatment option to reduce pain and swelling is to take non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications. A good home remedy for bringing down the swelling is to apply ice to the finger for 15 minutes three times a day is recommended. In some cases, your doctor may also prescribe a steroid injection into the affected finger.

Treating Trigger Finger: Physical Therapy and Surgery

One of the most effective ways to treat trigger finger is through physical therapy, which can effectively increase flexibility and strength in the finger and hand. Your physical therapist may also massage the finger gently to break up any scar tissue on the tendon, which can alleviate pain and improve your range of motion.

If conservative methods fail to restore mobility, surgery may be your next step. In a percutaneous release procedure, a needle inserted into the finger tendon loosens it so the finger can move smoothly again. This procedure is usually done on an outpatient basis. After surgery, you must keep the finger dry by covering it with plastic wrap when showering. You’ll wear a bandage for a few days. Once the bandage is removed, you should move your finger as much as possible to speed up the healing process.

It’s important to remember that surgery is only recommended when other conservative techniques are unsuccessful and your quality of life is significantly impaired by trigger finger. In most cases, trigger finger resolves without surgery and you can return to normal activities without pain or stiffness.

Treat Your Trigger Finger Today

The physicians at Comprehensive Orthopaedics are experts in treating painful conditions of the joints, including your hands and fingers. Our first priority is ensuring quality of life to your patients with conservative treatments and surgery when necessary.

NSAIDS, Steroids for Back Pain: Is Too Much of Them a Bad Thing?

NSAIDS, Steroids for Back Pain: Is Too Much of Them a Bad Thing?

THURSDAY, May 12, 2022 (HealthDay News) — Persistent use of steroids and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen to treat acute lower back pain may actually turn it into a chronic condition, a new study warns.

However, some experts who expressed concerns about the study published in the journal Science Translational Medicine pointed out that it was not a clinical trial, which is the gold standard for medical research, The New York Times reported.

The findings by the team at McGill University in Montreal are based on observations of patients, an analysis of a large patient database and an animal study.

The study results suggest we “need to think further about how to treat our patients,” lead investigator Dr. Luda Diatchenko, a professor who specializes in human pain genetics, told the Times.

Back pain is the most common type of pain, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The research is “intriguing, but requires further study,” Dr. Steven Atlas, director of primary care practice-based research and quality improvement at Massachusetts General Hospital, told the Times.

That opinion was echoed by Dr. Bruce Vrooman, a pain specialist at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center in New Hampshire. But Vrooman also told the Times that the study was “impressive in its scope” and added that if the findings hold up in a clinical trial, it could “force reconsideration of how we treat acute pain.”

The study represents a “paradigm shift,” Dr. Thomas Buchheit, director of the regenerative pain therapies program at Duke University, told the Times.

“There is this unspoken rule: If it hurts, take an anti-inflammatory, and if it still hurts, put a steroid on it,” he said. But this study shows that “we have to think of healing, and not suppression of inflammation.”

Current guidelines advise people with back pain to begin with exercise, physical therapy, heat or massage, which can be as effective as pain medications but don’t cause the same side effects.

If those approaches don’t work, patients can try NSAIDs like ibuprofen, the guidelines advise. Acetaminophen (best known as Tylenol) is not an anti-inflammatory.

More information

Visit the National Library of Medicine for more on back pain.

SOURCE: The New York Times
Copyright ©2022 HealthDay. All rights reserved.
When Is It Time for a Knee Replacement?

When Is It Time for a Knee Replacement?

Knee replacement surgery is one of the most common procedures in the United States, with more than 790,000 performed each year.

Deciding the time for knee replacement needs to be determined by you and your doctor, but certain factors make it more likely, according to experts at Keck Medicine of the University of Southern California.

  • Bad arthritis. “Osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and post-traumatic arthritis affect the knee through different mechanisms, however, these different conditions are similar in that they all result in loss of cartilage, which causes pain and loss of motion,” Dr. Nathanael Heckmann, orthopedic surgeon at Keck Medicine, said in a Keck news release. “When these symptoms become severe, knee replacement surgery may provide considerable symptom relief by replacing the worn-out surfaces of the knee.”
  • When nonsurgical treatments such as medications, steroid injections and physical therapy are no longer effective. “As time passes, these arthritic conditions tend to progress in severity, rendering these types of treatments less and less effective,” Heckmann said.
  • Your knee pain prevents you from doing normal activities or caring for yourself. “In general, the timing of a total knee replacement is determined by the impact the knee is having on your quality of life,” said Dr. Jay Lieberman, chief of orthopedic surgery at Keck Medicine. “If conservative treatments are not working and you have significant pain while walking, you may be a good candidate for surgery.”
  • Severe knee pain. Especially if it happens even when resting and you can’t sleep.
  • Swollen knees. Particularly if your knee is always swollen.
  • Your knee has become deformed. If you have advanced arthritis, it can affect the way you walk, which can also lead to further problems elsewhere in your body.
  • You’re of a certain age. While knee replacements are done in people of all ages, they’re most common in those older than 60. That’s because younger people’s more active lifestyles may place too much strain on the artificial knee and shorten how long it lasts, and second replacement surgeries may not be as successful.

If you’re thinking about knee replacement surgery, you need to know that you may have to avoid high-impact activities.

“Total knee replacement is quite successful in enabling patients to return to an active lifestyle — patients can perform all types of recreational activities, including hiking, bicycling, skiing, surfing, tennis and golf,” Lieberman said in the release. “In general, we do not limit activities but suggest that patients avoid impact activities on a consistent basis to reduce wear on the prosthesis.”

More information

There’s more on total knee replacement at the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.

SOURCE: Keck Medicine, University of Southern California, news release, January 2022

Copyright ©2022 HealthDay. All rights reserved.
Can a Standing Desk Reduce Back Pain?

Can a Standing Desk Reduce Back Pain?

Sitting at your desk all day can cause back pain. Will switching to a standing desk setup help? Read on to find out.

COVID-19 has changed many aspects of American life, and one of most pronounced is how and where we work. To stop the spread of the virus, companies allowed workers to work from home or split their hours between office and home using a hybrid work model. The result was a huge surge in employees who work from home.

As people began to work from home more regularly, they quickly realized they didn’t have a proper desk setup in their houses. Instead of an office desk and chair, they crouched on their sofa with a laptop or on a stool at their kitchen table, leading to back and neck pain. Even those who had dedicated office space in their residence with a desk and chair often suffered from lower back discomfort. To alleviate back stiffness, some workers considered purchasing a standing desk, which people frequently claim can reduce some of the health risks caused by sitting for long periods of time. But can these devices actually reduce your neck and back pain? Or might they even lead to more serious pains?

How Sitting All Day Affects Your Back

Sitting has been termed the “new smoking” due to the damage it can do to your health. While this may seem like an exaggeration, there’s no denying the health risks caused by extensive sitting. When you sit for eight hours a day at work and then more at home in front of the television, you’re not active and that can lead to serious health problems across the board.

When it comes to your back, sitting for long hours in a chair can strain the muscles in your back, neck, hips, and buttocks. Sitting can also compress the discs in your spine, leading to stiffness and pain. And if you slouch forward — as many of us do when seated — that pressure on your spine increases. In addition to simply sitting, the way you set up your desk and computer may also be causing problems. If the computer is too low or too high, you may be stressing your neck muscles in addition to your back.

How a Standing Desk Can Help

Now that you know how harmful sitting all day can be, you may want to try a standing desk or a sit-standing desk, which lets you switch between the two positions. One study found workers using a sit-standing desk reported less lower back pain. Other studies have reported standing at a desk burns more calories and results in better productivity. Generally speaking, standing may force you to improve your posture which in turn can take the pressure off your lower back.

However, a standing desk will not cure an underlying orthopedic issue, such as scoliosis or a herniated disc. And standing could exacerbate leg swelling or foot pain.

Staying Healthy When Using a Standing Desk

To avoid back pain with a standing desk, follow these tips:

Set Up Your Desk Correctly. Incorrectly setting up your standing desk or standing with poor posture could strain your back and neck more than sitting. Therefore, it’s important to rearrange your desk layout and positioning so you don’t end up with extra back pain. First, adjust your standing desk so your head, neck, and spine are aligned and your computer monitor is at eye level. As you stand, move your head slightly back and your spine in an “S” curve. Your elbows should be at a 90-degree angle, with your wrists resting flat on the desk.

Take the Pressure off Your Feet. It’s not just your back that will bear the strain of standing all day — your feet absorb most of your weight as you stand. To take the pressure off your feet, wear comfortable supportive shoes, or place a cushioned mat under your feet for extra support.

Don’t Make the Switch Overnight. Suddenly switching from a seated desk to a standing desk can be a shock to your body. Ease into your new setup by alternating between sitting and standing throughout the day until your body adapts and you find the most comfortable position.

Make a Homemade Standing Desk. Before you make a large investment in a standing desk, devise a homemade one at home. Prop up your computer on a pile of books or boxes and give it a try. You may find a standing desk isn’t helpful, or switching between standing and sitting is better for your back.

Get Moving. Whether you sit or stand all day, remember to get up and move frequently. Take a break to walk around or stretch your legs and back to unlock stiff muscles. At the end of the day, your back will feel much better if you’ve moved throughout the day.

Sit Properly. If you decide to stay seated or alternate between sitting and standing, sit properly with your lower back straight, shoulders relaxed, and feet on the floor. For more back support, insert a pillow along your lower spine.

Are You Suffering from Lower Back Pain?

For years the doctors at Comprehensive Orthopaedics have successfully treated back pain with conservative and surgical methods. We will diagnose your condition and recommend therapies so you can live pain-free.  Contact us today for a consultation.

Call Now Button