Arthritis is one of the leading causes of disability in the United States, preventing individuals from participating in work, leisure activities, and daily chores. An overwhelming 58.5 million Americans live with arthritis, with many others likely going undiagnosed.
What Exactly is Arthritis?
Arthritis is an umbrella term that refers to over 100 conditions affecting the joints and surrounding tissues. The most common type of arthritis is osteoarthritis, which occurs when the protective cartilage on the ends of bones wears down over time. Another common type of arthritis is rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune and inflammatory disease that occurs when the body’s immune system attacks healthy cells and tissues around joints.
Arthritis can cause inflammation, stiffness, swelling, joint disfigurement, and chronic pain in the joints and other surrounding tissues. Other symptoms of arthritis may include fatigue, reduced range of motion, and insomnia.
Although arthritis and neuropathic pain can occur independently, there is a significantly high rate of co-morbidity between the two conditions, pointing to a potential connection.
What is Neuropathic Pain?
Neuropathic pain is a type of chronic pain that is caused by damage to or malfunctioning the nervous system. This can include the peripheral nerves, responsible for transmitting signals between the body and the brain, and the central nervous system, which consists of the brain and the spinal cord.
Neuropathic pain can be caused by various factors, including diabetes, physical injury, surgery, spinal cord injuries, infection, or illness. Signs and symptoms of chronic neuropathic pain can vary depending on the underlying cause. However, common symptoms include:
- Burning or shooting pain
- Numbness or tingling
- Pins and needles
- Sensitivity to touch or temperature
- Muscle weakness
- Sleep disturbance
Is There a Link Between Arthritis and Neuropathic Pain?
Although the connection between arthritis and neuropathic pain is not fully understood, there is evidence to suggest that the two conditions are linked. One study shows that around 85 percent of patients with rheumatoid arthritis also experience neuropathic pain.
Several factors may contribute to the link between arthritis and neuropathic pain. For example, the inflammation caused by arthritis can damage or irritate nerves around your joints, leading to neuropathic pain. Joint deformity and damage caused by arthritis can also put pressure on the nerves in your joints and lead to ongoing neuropathic pain.
Although there is no cure for either arthritis or neuropathic pain, there are treatments that can help manage the symptoms and improve quality of life. This may involve medication, physical therapy, and lifestyle changes.
In some cases, more aggressive treatments may be necessary to provide relief. For example, surgery may be required to repair damage caused by arthritis. There is also a surge in the use of ketamine infusions to treat chronic arthritis and neuropathic pain, with studies showing a high efficacy rate.
With proper treatment and self-care, it is possible to manage the symptoms of arthritis and neuropathic pain and live a pain-free life.