An older man reading a newspaper on a bench overlooking a vast field

10 Early Signs of Arthritis You Should Not Overlook

An older man reading a newspaper on a bench overlooking a vast field

Arthritis, characterized by inflammation of one or more joints, is a condition that affects millions globally. This blog highlights 10 early signs of arthritis that shouldn’t be ignored.

1. Persistent Joint Pain

One of the most unmistakable early signs of arthritis is persistent joint pain. This discomfort may be constant or may come and go. Unlike the temporary joint pain that can follow physical exertion, arthritis-related pain persists over time. It gradually intensifies and becomes more frequent.

2. Stiffness in Joints

Stiffness in the joints that lasts more than 30 minutes can be an early sign of arthritis. This stiffness often occurs after periods of inactivity. It’s a hallmark of rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune form of the disease, but it’s also common in other types of arthritis.

3. Swelling or Tenderness

Joint swelling or tenderness is another early warning sign. Inflammation caused by arthritis can lead to noticeable swelling in and around the joints (accompanied by tenderness to the touch). Swelling that persists for days or occurs repeatedly over a short period warrants medical evaluation.

4. Reduced Range of Motion

A reduction in range of motion is a sign that arthritis may be affecting joint function. Individuals might find it challenging to perform simple tasks that require bending at the joint, such as tying shoes or reaching for objects. This limitation can progress and severely impact daily activities if not addressed promptly with physical therapy and other management strategies.

5. Joint Warmth and Redness

Warmth and redness around a joint, along with other symptoms like pain and swelling, can indicate inflammatory arthritis, particularly when observed in multiple joints. The affected area may feel hot and appear redder compared to the surrounding skin.

6. Crepitus

Crepitus, or the sensation of cracking, popping, or grinding in the joints with movement, is often an early sign of arthritis. This symptom indicates that the cartilage within the joint may be deteriorating or that there is a decrease in the synovial fluid that lubricates the joint. Crepitus occurs more commonly with osteoarthritis.

7. Fatigue

A young woman with fatigue lies in bed

Fatigue is a less recognized but significant early sign of certain types of arthritis. This systemic symptom arises from the body’s immune response to inflammation. Experiencing persistent fatigue along with other joint symptoms can indicate the need for an arthritis evaluation.

8. Numbness or Tingling

Numbness or tingling, particularly in the hands, may signal inflammatory arthritis affecting the nerves. For instance, rheumatoid arthritis can cause inflammation that compresses nerves. This symptom, often overlooked as unrelated to joint issues, should prompt consideration of an arthritis evaluation.

9. Unexplained Weight Loss

Unexplained weight loss can accompany the early stages of inflammatory arthritis. As the body’s immune system fights the inflammation, metabolism may increase, leading to weight loss. This systemic sign, combined with other early signs of arthritis, underscores the condition’s impact beyond just the joints.

10. Fever

A low-grade fever can accompany the early stages of some types of arthritis. Fever alone is nonspecific; however, when it occurs with joint pain, stiffness, and swelling, it can be a sign of underlying inflammatory arthritis.

Visit Houston Physicians’ Hospital

Arthritis can significantly impact one’s quality of life. However, recognizing these early signs offers the best chance for effective management and treatment. Awareness of these symptoms, coupled with timely medical consultation, can help mitigate the effects of arthritis.

At Houston Physicians’ Hospital, we have doctors who specialize in joint pain treatment, whether it’s caused by arthritis or another ailment. Our Orthopedic Center of Excellence is equipped with state-of-the-art technology and staffed by leading orthopedic specialists who can diagnose and manage your condition effectively. Visit the webpage to learn more and find an orthopedic physician who’s right for you.

 

An elderly patient’s hand

The Early Signs of Essential Tremor and Treatment Options

An elderly patient’s hand

Essential tremor, a neurological disorder that causes involuntary and rhythmic shaking, can affect almost any part of the body but most commonly affects the hands (especially when performing simple tasks like drinking from a glass or tying a shoelace).

Understanding the early signs and various treatment options available is essential for managing the condition effectively and maintaining a high quality of life. This blog delves into the early indicators of essential tremor and explores the spectrum of treatments (from lifestyle adjustments to medical interventions). Keep reading.

Identifying Early Signs of Essential Tremor

The initial manifestation of essential tremor often involves a slight shaking or trembling in one or both hands. The tremor typically occurs when the hands are in use, termed an “action tremor,” contrasting with tremors that occur at rest. These tremors can also affect the head, voice, legs, and torso.

Some individuals may notice a “yes-yes” or “no-no” motion of the head. Notably, stress, fatigue, and extreme temperatures can exacerbate the tremors and make them more noticeable. Early detection is often challenging due to the gradual onset and mild initial symptoms. However, paying attention to these subtle changes is imperative.

Lifestyle Adjustments and Coping Strategies

Essential tremor management involves several lifestyle adjustments that can significantly alleviate symptoms. Reducing caffeine intake and avoiding other stimulants can help. Engaging in relaxation techniques like deep breathing, meditation, and yoga can also reduce tremor severity by minimizing stress (which often aggravates tremors).

Some individuals find that using heavier utensils and glasses stabilizes their hands and reduces the impact of the tremors on daily activities. Occupational therapy can be incredibly beneficial. It offers strategies and adaptive devices to manage tremors effectively.

Medication and Nonsurgical Treatment Options

The MRI Caring Suite at Houston Physicians’ Hospital where focused ultrasound is used to treat essential tremor

When lifestyle adjustments aren’t sufficient to control tremor symptoms, medication may be prescribed. Beta-blockers, traditionally used to treat high blood pressure, have been effective in reducing tremors for many individuals. Primidone, an anti-seizure medication, is another common prescription for managing essential tremor. Additionally, Botox injections have been used to treat hand and voice tremors by temporarily paralyzing the tremor-producing muscles. It’s important to discuss the potential side effects and benefits of these treatments with a healthcare provider.

Surgical and Advanced Therapies

For individuals with severe tremors that significantly impact their quality of life and do not respond to medication, surgical options may be considered. Deep brain stimulation is a procedure that involves implanting an electrode in the brain connected to a stimulator device in the chest (which sends electrical pulses to the brain to reduce tremors). Another promising treatment is focused ultrasound therapy. This noninvasive procedure, created by a company called Insightec, uses focused ultrasound waves to target and lesion the brain areas responsible for the tremors. Both treatments have been options for years, but focused ultrasound is proving to be the more effective method in significantly reducing tremors for many patients.

Emerging Research and Future Directions

Ongoing research into essential tremor is broadening our understanding of the condition and paving the way for new treatment options. Genetic studies are uncovering potential hereditary links. Innovative technologies in neuromodulation and pharmacotherapy hold promise for more effective management of tremors. Patient participation in clinical trials is essential for advancing these developments and offering hope for future breakthroughs in essential tremor treatment.

Visit Houston Physicians’ Hospital for Essential Tremor Treatment

Recognizing the early signs of essential tremor is essential for timely intervention. At Houston Physicians’ Hospital, we provide advanced diagnostic and treatment options, including MR-guided focused ultrasound from Insightec. Our neurosurgeons in Clear Lake TX, are at the forefront of utilizing innovative approaches for conditions that may be exacerbated by essential tremor complications. If you or someone you know suffers from essential tremor, visit our webpage to learn more and contact us to schedule an appointment.

a nurse checking a man's blood pressure

The Silent Threat: Understanding and Managing High Blood Pressure

a nurse checking a man's blood pressure

High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a pervasive health issue that affects millions globally. Called the “silent killer,” it often appears without any overt symptoms. This makes it a silent but significant threat to health.

Understanding and managing high blood pressure is vital for preventing long-term complications like heart disease, stroke, and kidney failure. This blog explores the intricacies of high blood pressure. We’ll shed light on its causes, risk factors, and effective management strategies.

Understanding High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure occurs when the force of blood against your blood vessels’ walls is persistently too high. This condition can lead to the weakening and narrowing of blood vessels over time.

Blood pressure readings are categorized into normal, elevated, stage 1 hypertension, and stage 2 hypertension (based on the measurements of systolic and diastolic blood pressure). Understanding the importance of regular monitoring is the first step in managing this condition.

Risk Factors and Causes

Several factors contribute to the development of high blood pressure. These include genetics, age, a high-salt diet, obesity, physical inactivity, tobacco use, alcohol consumption, and underlying conditions such as diabetes and kidney disease.

Understanding these risk factors is essential for identifying individuals at higher risk and implementing early intervention strategies to prevent the onset of hypertension.

Lifestyle Changes for Management

Managing high blood pressure often involves significant lifestyle changes.

A heart-healthy diet low in sodium and rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein can have a profound impact.

Regular physical activity, weight loss for overweight individuals, moderation in alcohol consumption, and cessation of smoking are also important.

Medication and Treatment Options

 a man with long grey hair and beard and a woman with gray hair run along the coast

For some individuals, lifestyle changes alone may not be sufficient to manage high blood pressure effectively. In such cases, medication may be necessary.

There are various classes of blood pressure medications, including ACE inhibitors, beta-blockers, diuretics, and calcium channel blockers. Each works in different ways to lower blood pressure.

It’s important to work closely with healthcare providers to find the most suitable medication or combination of medications.

Monitoring and Regular Check-Ups

Blood pressure monitoring is essential for those diagnosed with hypertension or at high risk. Home blood pressure monitoring can complement regular check-ups with a healthcare provider. These check-ups are also an opportunity to adjust treatment plans, discuss concerns, and ensure that blood pressure is being managed effectively.

Recommended Read: High Blood Pressure Prevention

Visit Houston Physicians’ Hospital

Understanding high blood pressure is the first step toward effective management. By recognizing the risk factors, making necessary lifestyle changes, utilizing medication when needed, and maintaining regular monitoring and check-ups, individuals can significantly reduce their risk of complications associated with hypertension. With proactive management, it is possible to live a healthy and active life despite the diagnosis of high blood pressure.

At Houston Physicians’ Hospital, the cardiologists at our Heart and Vascular Center of Excellence can diagnose and treat a wide range of conditions, including high blood pressure. If you have a heart or vascular condition that you’re concerne with, you can visit our Heart and Vascular Center of Excellence webpage to learn more and find a cardiologist who’s right for you.

We also specialize in joint pain treatment, spine solutions, back surgery, hip replacement, knee surgery, and more.

A 3D female figure with the cervical spine near the head highlighted in reddish orange.

6 Innovative Approaches to Cervical Spine Health in 2024

A 3D female figure with the cervical spine near the head highlighted in reddish orange.

Your cervical spine, comprised of the first seven vertebrae in your spine, plays a crucial role in supporting the weight of your head, protecting your spinal cord, and facilitating various movements.

However, this vital region of the spine is susceptible to a myriad of conditions, ranging from neck pain and arthritis to degenerative bone and disk disease and stenosis. These conditions can significantly impact your quality of life, leading to discomfort, reduced mobility, and functional limitations.

Fortunately, various approaches have emerged in response to cervical spine health challenges, offering promising solutions for prevention, diagnosis, and treatment in 2024.

1. Precision Medicine

Advancements in genetic testing, biomarker identification, and personalized treatment algorithms are paving the way for precision medicine in cervical spine health.

Tailoring interventions based on individual genetic profiles, disease characteristics, and patient preferences holds great promise for optimizing treatment efficacy and minimizing adverse effects.

2. Minimally Invasive Procedures

Minimally invasive techniques continue to evolve, offering safer and more effective alternatives to traditional open surgeries for cervical spine disorders.

Innovations such as endoscopic spine surgery, robotic-assisted procedures, and percutaneous interventions enable surgeons to achieve precise spinal decompression, fusion, and stabilization with reduced tissue trauma, shorter recovery times, and improved patient satisfaction.

3.  Advanced Imaging Modalities

Emerging imaging technologies, including high-resolution MRI, Spatial Photon Counting CT (SPCCT), and intraoperative navigation systems, provide unprecedented insights into cervical spine anatomy, pathology, and surgical planning.

Real-time visualization and navigation capabilities enable surgeons to perform safer and more accurate procedures, leading to improved patient outcomes and reduced operative risks.

Three doctors looking at an X-ray of a spinal column.

4. Biologics and Regenerative Therapies

Biological agents, growth factors, and regenerative therapies hold great promise for enhancing tissue healing, promoting spinal fusion, and reducing inflammation in cervical spine disorders. Innovative approaches such as platelet-rich plasma (PRP), stem cell therapy, and tissue engineering techniques offer potential alternatives or adjuncts to traditional surgical interventions, fostering tissue repair and regeneration.

5. Telemedicine and Remote Monitoring

The widespread adoption of telemedicine platforms and remote monitoring technologies has transformed the delivery of cervical spine care, particularly in remote or underserved areas.

Teleconsultations, virtual follow-up visits, and wearable devices enable healthcare providers to remotely assess patients’ progress, monitor treatment adherence, and provide timely interventions, enhancing access to care and patient convenience.

6. Integrative and Multidisciplinary Care Models

Integrative care models that combine conventional treatments with complementary therapies such as acupuncture, chiropractic care, physical therapy, and mind-body interventions are gaining recognition in cervical spine health.

Multidisciplinary teams comprising spine surgeons, pain specialists, rehabilitation therapists, and holistic practitioners can collaborate to address the complex needs of patients, emphasizing holistic wellness and functional recovery.

Find a doctor who’s right for you at Houston Physicians’ Hospital. Our team of expert physicians offers personalized care tailored to your specific condition, ensuring you receive the highest quality treatment and support.

Whether you need orthopedic care, spine surgery, pain management, or any other service at a specialty hospital, we’re here to support your health and wellness. Experience the difference made by comprehensive evaluations; state-of-the-art treatments; and compassionate, patient-centered care given by healthcare professionals at Houston Physicians’ Hospital in Webster.

A woman sits in a chair while holding her lower back as though she is experiencing back pain.

Understanding Physical Therapy in the Treatment of Back Pain

A woman sits in a chair while holding her lower back as though she is experiencing back pain.

Back pain is a pervasive and often debilitating condition that affects millions of individuals worldwide, impacting their daily activities, productivity, and overall quality of life. When experiencing back or neck pain, you may have a strong tendency to stop all activity.

Inactivity that results in prolonged rest can exacerbate back discomfort. Moving past this initial reluctance and engaging in physical therapy and exercise often proves to be the most effective strategy to reduce pain.

Recommended Read: SLEEPING CAN AFFECT YOUR BACK — SEE HOW THESE POSITIONS HELP OR HINDER YOUR BACK

Physical Therapy for Back Pain: What You Need to Know

Research indicates that physical therapy can yield significant benefits, with studies demonstrating up to a 60% improvement in lower back pain and its associated symptoms. Through targeted exercises addressing the entire kinetic chain, physical therapy aims to provide flexibility and strength training to promote pain relief and functional improvement.

Physical therapy for back pain is structured around achieving both short- and long-term goals aimed at enhancing quality of life and reducing discomfort. These goals typically encompass:

  • Alleviating Pain: The primary focus is on reducing or eliminating the pain experienced in the back, whether localized or radiating to other areas, such as the legs. By addressing the root causes of pain, physical therapyaims to provide relief and enhance overall comfort levels.
  • Improving Functionality: Physical therapy may enhance the functional capacity of the back, enabling individuals to engage in daily activities with greater ease and independence. This may involve improving posture, enhancing strength and flexibility, and optimizing movement patterns.
  • Enhancing Mobility and Flexibility: Through targeted exercises, manual techniques, and therapeutic modalities, physical therapycan enhance the mobility and flexibility of the spine and its surrounding musculature. By increasing the range of motion and reducing stiffness, patients may experience improved movement and reduced discomfort.
  • Preventing Recurrence: A critical aspect of physical therapyis to address underlying issues and develop strategies to prevent the recurrence of back pain in the future. This may involve educating patients on proper body mechanics, implementing strengthening and stabilization exercises, and promoting lifestyle modifications to support spinal health.

Key Components of Physical Therapy in Back Pain Treatment

Physical therapists conduct thorough assessments to identify the underlying causes and contributing factors of back pain. This includes evaluating a patient’s posture, range of motion, muscle strength, flexibility, and any specific functional limitations.

Based on the assessment findings, physical therapists develop personalized treatment plans tailored to the unique needs and goals of each patient. These plans may include a combination of therapeutic exercises, manual therapy techniques, modalities, and patient education.

A man stands with his arms forward as a physiotherapist provides physical therapy for his back pain.

Therapeutic Exercise

Therapeutic exercises are a central component of physical therapy for back pain. These exercises aim to strengthen the muscles supporting the spine, improve flexibility, and enhance overall function. Specific exercises may target the core muscles, back extensors, abdominals, and hip muscles to promote stability and alignment.

Manual Therapy Techniques

Hands-on manual therapy techniques such as joint mobilization, soft tissue mobilization, and spinal manipulation are commonly used in back pain treatment. These techniques help alleviate pain, improve joint mobility, and restore normal movement patterns by addressing muscle tightness, joint stiffness, and tissue restrictions.

Modalities

Physical therapists may use various modalities to complement other treatment approaches and provide pain relief. Common modalities include heat therapy, cold therapy, ultrasound, electrical stimulation, and traction, which can help reduce inflammation, alleviate muscle spasms, and promote tissue healing.

Recommended Read: THE CAUSES OF A BAD BACK AND WHAT YOU CAN DO TO PREVENT THEM

Patient Education

Education plays a crucial role in physical therapy for back pain. Physical therapists educate patients about their condition, as well as proper body mechanics, ergonomics, posture, and strategies for pain management. Patients who are empowered with knowledge and self-care techniques can take an active role in their own recovery and prevent future episodes of back pain.

Functional Rehabilitation

Functional rehabilitation focuses on restoring the patient’s ability to perform daily activities and functional tasks with minimal discomfort. This may involve simulating real-life movements and activities to improve balance, coordination, and proprioception, ultimately facilitating a safe return to work, sports, and recreational activities.

Living with Excruciating Back Pain?

Don’t let back pain hold you back any longer. At Houston Physicians’ Hospital, we can help you find a doctor who’s right for you and who will explore different treatment plans to find the one that’s most effective in resolving your specific condition. Our expert physicians and therapists will work closely with you to develop a personalized treatment plan that targets the root cause of your discomfort and sets you on the path to recovery.

Whether you’re seeking relief from back pain, neck pain,  knee pain, Hip Surgery in Webster TX, or any other condition affecting your well-being, we’re committed to providing compassionate care and innovative treatments to help you reclaim your vitality.

A wrinkled pair of hands belonging to an elderly person.

What’s the Difference Between Parkinson’s Disease and Essential Tremor?

A wrinkled pair of hands belonging to an elderly person.

When observing someone with trembling hands or involuntary movements in the arms, legs, or head, many may immediately associate these symptoms with Parkinson’s disease (PD). However, it’s important to recognize that these manifestations could also indicate a more prevalent albeit less severe condition known as essential tremor.

Since both are distinct neurological disorders, knowing the difference between Parkinson’s disease (PD) and essential tremor (ET) is important for an accurate diagnosis and effective management.

What Is Essential Tremor?

Essential tremor is the most prevalent type of tremor, characterized by involuntary shaking, primarily affecting the hands and arms. Although not life-threatening, severe cases can lead to disability.

Initially, the tremor is typically low-amplitude/frequency (lower force) and may affect the head and voice as well. Typically starting with mild shaking, the tremors may increase in severity but occur with a reduced frequency over time.

Researchers are uncertain about the condition’s cause, but there is evidence of genetic predisposition, with a higher likelihood among people whose parents have suffered from it. Essential tremor can manifest at any age but it’s most common in adults over 40, affecting both genders equally.

Recommended Read: THE 3 TYPES OF TREMORS YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT

What Is Parkinson’s Disease?

Parkinson’s disease is a progressive neurological disorder resulting from insufficient dopamine production in the brain. It predominantly affects older adults over 60, with a higher incidence in men.

Tremors in Parkinson’s typically begin unilaterally, often in the hands, before spreading to the other side of the body. These tremors are characterized by a amplitude but lower frequency compared to essential tremors.

Parkinson’s presents a range of symptoms beyond tremors, including muscle stiffness, bradykinesia (slowed movements), and postural instability. While tremors are a hallmark symptom, other motor and non-motor symptoms distinguish Parkinson’s disease.

Recommended Read: HOW TO SUPPORT AND CARE FOR A LOVED ONE WITH PARKINSON’S DISEASE

More Differences Between Parkinson’s and Essential Tremor

The Numbers

According to estimates, essential tremors impact approximately 7 million people in the United States alone, making it considerably more common than Parkinson’s disease, with a prevalence at least eight times higher.

Meanwhile, Parkinson’s disease is a progressive neurological condition that affects about 1% of individuals over 60 years old. It is characterized by movement difficulties, as opposed to essential tremors, where bilateral tremors in the hands and arms are the hallmark feature.

Causes

PD results from the degeneration of dopamine-producing neurons in the brain’s substantia nigra region. The exact cause remains unknown, but genetic and environmental factors likely play a role.

ET’s precise cause is also unclear, but it is believed to involve abnormalities in the cerebellum, a brain region responsible for coordinating movement. Genetic factors may contribute to its development.

The Tremors

According to the Parkinson’s Foundation, the primary distinction between Parkinsonian tremors (PT) and other types of tremors lies in their presentation. PT typically manifest as a “resting tremor,” characterized by trembling or shaking movements occurring while the individual is at rest or maintaining stillness.

In contrast, other types of tremors, such as essential tremor or tremors associated with dystonia or cerebellar disorders, typically present as “action tremors.” These tremors manifest when the individual actively engages or uses the affected body part, such as during movement or when maintaining a particular posture.

Progression and Life Span

PD is a progressive condition, with symptoms worsening over time as neuronal degeneration advances. Patients may experience fluctuations in symptoms and may eventually develop significant motor and non-motor complications.

Meanwhile, ET tends to be a slowly progressive condition, although the rate of progression varies among individuals. While tremors may worsen over time, many patients experience relatively stable symptoms with appropriate management.

Moreover, essential tremor symptoms may progress but generally don’t shorten an individual’s life span, whereas Parkinson’s tends to worsen over time and can impact life expectancy due to decreased levodopa production.

A patient lies in an MRI machine undergoing Insightec treatment for his essential tremor.

Associated Health Problems

In addition to tremors, PD is characterized by bradykinesia (again, slowed movements), rigidity, and postural instability. Patients may also experience stooped posture, shuffling gait, freezing of gait, and non-motor symptoms like depression and cognitive changes.

While ET is primarily characterized by tremors, some patients may also experience mild balance difficulties or coordination problems. Unlike PD, ET typically does not cause significant motor impairments or non-motor symptoms.

Management Strategies

Both conditions can be managed with medications, physical therapy, and other techniques, like deep brain stimulation. However, MR-guided focused ultrasound from Insightec has been used successfully in the treatment of both essential tremor and PD. The treatment is completely noninvasive and the effects are instantaneous and can last up to six years. Plus, it can be administered to both sides of the brain and it’s covered under Medicare.

Consulting a healthcare professional is crucial for personalized guidance and support. If PD, ET, or any other chronic healthcare condition is disrupting your life, Houston Physicians’ Hospital can help. Visit their webpage dedicated to MR-Focused Ultrasound for Essential Tremor Treatment to learn more and to find a doctor who can provide the treatment.

Professionals at our specialty hospital understand the challenges you may face and are dedicated to providing comprehensive care tailored to your individual needs. Whether you require medication management, physical therapy Services in Houston, or other advanced treatment options, we’re here to support your journey toward regaining control and improving your quality of life.