Arthritis may be difficult to manage, but relief from the pain is within reach.
Approximately 54 million adults are affected by arthritis, with the number expected to exceed 78 million by 2040. The bulk of these cases are osteoarthritis from getting older.
Symptoms of Arthritis Include:
- Swelling in joints
- Stiffness in joints
- Tenderness or pain in joints
- Issues moving affected joints
- Swelling, warmth or redness in joints
Arthritis can have a major impact on quality of life, and there is no cure. But there are tried and true methods to help manage the condition.
This article breaks down the types of arthritis and explores lifestyle changes that can reduce swelling and pain, and dramatically improve quality of life.
Types of Arthritis
Arthritis is a blanket term for a condition that causes inflammation of the joints. There are three types of arthritis and proper diagnosis is key since they are treated differently.
OA is the main culprit of joint pain in old age and the cause of bend-over back pain and sleepless nights.
It is caused by cartilage in your joints wearing away, causing bones to rub together. This can affect any joint in the body, though it is most common in the hands, neck, lower back, knees and hips.
Other than taking pain relievers, there is no way to repair the damage of OA. However, practicing the lifestyle tips further down the page can help manage the pain and slow deterioration.
Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)
RA is an autoimmune disease and can affect young and old people alike. The immune system malfunctions in the body and attacks the joint linings, causing swelling and pain.
Along with joint pain, this condition can also affect the heart, blood vessels and nervous system. This form of arthritis is controlled with both anti-inflammatory and anti-rheumatic drugs.
Eating certain foods can trigger gout, which causes massive swelling and is one of the most painful forms of arthritis. It can affect anyone, but being overweight or on medications such as those for blood pressure can make people more susceptible.
It is caused by a build up in uric acid in the body that the kidney can not process. It usually affects the big toe, but can also flare up in an ankle, knee, wrist or hand. Treatment involves drugs to reduce the swelling and identification and elimination of any trigger foods from your diet.
Physical Activity For Arthritis
Arthritis may not be reversible, but it will keep getting worse if you don’t keep those joints moving. Exercising and staying fit will help you retain your range of motion and keep your joints limber.
Stretching and balance exercises are low impact and help older people keep their body feeling loose and light. Having a regular stretching routine or taking a dance or yoga class are all great ways to keep arthritis at bay and improve your range of motion.
Aerobic exercise such as running, swimming or biking keeps your body running smoothly. Aside from helping you lose weight, keeping your heart and lungs in good shape helps with your overall mood and energy. There is also some suggestion that aerobic exercise may decrease swelling caused by arthritis.
The cartilage in your joints might be wearing down, but you can compensate by increasing your muscle tone. Ensuring your muscles in affected areas are strong will provide a scaffold to protect against sore joints.
Related Post: What Exercises Help Older Adults Stay Fit Best?
The Importance of Weight Management
When you have sore joints, losing weight prevents gravity from putting pressure on your ankles, knees, hips and back. Losing weight will not only reduce inflammation and pain in those joints but will also help those joints function better overall.
Along with working out regularly, you should make sure you are eating a healthy diet to help shed some pounds.
Arthritis Diet to Reduce Inflammation
You are what you eat, so it is hardly surprising your diet has a direct impact on the inflammation in your joints. The Arthritis Foundation has even produced a list of foods that can help fight inflammation.
These are the highlights from that list.
Foods For Osteoarthritis
- Dairy for bone health
- Broccoli contains sulforaphane which may help prevent or slow OA
- Garlic may also limit OA damage
Foods For Rheumatoid Arthritis
- Fish and soy for omega-3
- Whole grains and beans to lower C-reactive protein, an inflammatory marker
Foods For Both
- Olive oil which contains the anti-inflammatory oleocanthal and heart-healthy fats
- Citrus fruit for high vitamin C
- Green tea for anti-inflammatory purposes and potential slowing of RA
Emotional Stress and Arthritis
Emotional stress and anxiety make arthritis pain feel worse. In many cases, arthritis pain itself is the cause of that stress, causing a vicious cycle.
Experiencing chronic pain can make you feel like you are losing control of your life. When you begin to recognize that your own worry might be making the problem worse, it is easier to take positive steps to manage your condition.
Along with the exercise and diet tips mentioned above, stress-reduction techniques may help with your arthritis.
Stress-Reduction Techniques Include:
- Cognitive Behavioural Therapy
- Breathing Exercises
Arthritis and Living a Healthy Life
The onset of arthritis may make you feel old or feeble. Once the reality sets in and you work to manage your condition, you will begin to recognize that this is far from true.
Our body may age, but our mind doesn’t have to. Try adopting the practices mentioned above to keep the body healthy and your joints strong limber. Shifting your outlook and behaviour will build a foundation for many active and happy years ahead.