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Guide Health: Dealing with the pain of arthritis

There are two types of arthritis: rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis is treated by targeting the immune system to lessen inflammation.

It can seem inevitable that if you live long enough, of course you’ll be affected by arthritis, but it isn’t always so.

Arthritis is an inflammatory condition of the joints which makes movement painful and difficult, but it occurs in two types; rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis involves the immune system, with about one per cent of Canadians being affected, usually between 25 and 50 years of age. The most effective treatments for rheumatoid arthritis target the immune system in order to reduce inflammation and pain.

Osteoarthritis, by contrast, is much more common, affecting 10 times more Canadians. It is a degenerative disease of the joints, commonly known as a “wear and tear” condition, which is why older people are more often affected. Athletes who use their joints continually and excessively can be affected at much younger ages.

The recommended treatment for osteoarthritis is considered to be acetaminophen, with two extra strength (500-mg) tablets four times daily for a maximum of four grams (eight 500-mg tablets = 4,000 mg or four grams). However, recent research has brought about some changes in this recommendation.

Acetaminophen still is a good starting point for mild to moderate pain, not severe, but in lower doses of two regular strength (325-mg) tablets four times daily for a maximum of 2,600 mg or 2.6 grams.

There is no proof that higher doses of acetaminophen are more effective for osteoarthritis pain, and American recommendations actually limit the maximum daily dose of acetaminophen to four grams for adults and 3.2 grams for seniors for any type of pain relief.

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