Arthritis is an inflammation of the joints that can affect one or multiple joints. There are more than 100 types of arthritis with the most common types being: osteoarthritis (OA), rheumatoid arthritis (RA), and psoriatic arthritis (PA).
Osteoarthritis typically develops in older adults after years of wear and tear on the joints. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that can be caused by genetic and environmental factors in which the body’s immune system attacks healthy joints.
Psoriatic arthritis is an autoimmune disorder that is largely genetic. It is a chronic condition which means it is persistent or otherwise long-lasting and people who suffer from it have to find ways to manage it, making any necessary adjustments.
Symptoms of arthritis (on the joints)
- Decreased range of motion
It is worth noting that these symptoms typically worsen over time with age.
Risk factors for arthritis
- Family history: some types run in families,
- Age: risk increases with age.
- Sex: women are more likely than men to develop rheumatoid arthritis.
- Previous joint injury: previous joint injury increases the likelihood of getting arthritis.
- Obesity: overweight people have a higher risk of developing arthritis.
Ways of managing arthritis
1. Be active
Physical activity is a simple and effective non-drug way to relieve arthritis pain. Physical activity can reduce pain, improve function, mood, and overall quality of life for affected people. Regular physical activity also has the added benefit of reducing the risk of developing other chronic diseases like heart disease and diabetes.
Avoid holding any position for too long. If you’re working at a desk or relaxing watching TV, for example, get up and stretch every 15 minutes or so.
2. Manage your weight
Excess weight can cause more pressure on the weight-bearing joints and increase pain. Plus, adipose tissue (aka fat) sends out chemical signals that increase inflammation. Being overweight also increases your chances of developing other diseases like heart disease, diabetes, and even some cancers.
3. Protect your joints
Joint injuries can cause or worsen arthritis. Choose activities that are easy on the joints like walking, bicycling, yoga and swimming. These low-impact activities have a low risk of injury and do not twist or put too much stress on joints.
Use your strongest joints and muscles, protecting the compromised limbs and joints. For example, to protect affected fingers, push open heavy doors with the side of the arm or shoulder. Lead with the stronger leg or hip when going up a flight of stairs and the weaker leg when going down.
4. Learn new self-management skills
Learning strategies for managing arthritis can help you feel more in control of your health as well as help you communicate better with your healthcare providers. It can help you manage pain and other symptoms, reduce stress, improve your mood and help you carry on with your daily activities as much as possible.
Learn new strategies to simplify your life as much as possible. Use labour-saving and adaptive aids and make modifications to your home as needed to make your life as easy and stress-free as possible.
5. Talk to your doctor
Best case you talk to your doctor even before diagnosis because an accurate diagnosis as early as possible goes a long way in helping you start treatment earlier. The earlier treatment starts the better it is in terms of minimizing symptoms and preventing arthritis from getting worse.
Talk to your doctor, follow the treatment arthritis plan you agree on, and take any medication that’s recommended for pain management if needed.
6. Ask for help
Maintaining independence is essential to self-esteem. However, don’t let that keep you from asking for help when you need it. Educate your family members and friends about your limitations and ways they can help.
Foods to eat
Although there’s no cure for arthritis, certain foods have been shown to fight inflammation, strengthen bones and boost the immune system.
- Fish: packed with anti-inflammation fighting omega-3 fatty acids. Also, have vitamin D with studies showing that rheumatoid arthritis may be associated with low levels of vitamin D. Lifestyle: 8 Health And Nutritional Benefits Of Fish
- Berries: including grapes, cherries, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, guavas and blackberries. They have an anti-inflammatory effect. Lifestyle: The Benefits Of Berries And Some Of The Important Berries To Eat
- Opt for oils when cooking: extra virgin olive oil, avocado, walnut, and sunflower oils that have cholesterol-lowering properties.
- Broccoli: rich in vitamins K and C which have properties that prevent or slow the progression of osteoarthritis.
- Green tea: packed with polyphenols and antioxidants believed to reduce inflammation and slow cartilage destruction.
- Citrus fruits: including oranges, grapefruits, lemons, and limes. Rich in vitamin C and nutrients that prevent inflammatory arthritis and maintaining healthy joints with osteoarthritis. The Health Benefits Of Vitamin C
- Grains and cereals: including oatmeal, brown rice, and whole-grain cereals. They lower levels of C-reactive protein (CRP) in the blood. CRP is a marker of inflammation associated with heart disease, diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis.
- Beans: packed with fibre, a nutrient that helps lower CRP. Beans are also an excellent source of protein which is important for muscle health.
- Garlic: Including the whole allium family (onions and leeks). People who regularly ate them showed fewer signs of osteoarthritis.
- Nuts: rich in nutrients that are immune-boosting. They are also heart-healthy and beneficial for weight loss.
- Ginger: may help ease the symptoms of arthritis. One study found people with osteoarthritis who took ginger extract experienced improvements in knee pain.
- Spinach: and other leafy greens have components that may help decrease inflammation caused by arthritis.
- Turmeric: can significantly reduce knee pain in people with osteoarthritis – but turmeric won’t improve swelling or change cartilage.
- Other things you can eat include brussels sprouts, papaya, fish oil supplements, bone broth and pomegranates.
Foods to avoid
- Red meat
- High-fat dairy and cheese
- Sugar-sweetened beverages and sugary snacks
- Fried foods
- Canned foods
- Refined carbohydrates
- Candy and dessert
- Processed foods
- Sugar – Health & Lifestyle: The Bitter Truths About Sugar
It’s not all doom and gloom. It is possible to manage arthritis. Stick to your treatment plan and ask for help. If you know someone living with arthritis, check in on them, find out how they’re holding up and offer them help where you can.