The Health Series: Arthritis
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The Health Series: Arthritis

This is not to be construed as medical advice, but is for informational purposes only. Please, consult your medical provider for your particular health concerns.

Arthritis is a common health condition around the globe. Even though people think of it as a disease of aging, arthritis isn't an age condition; it's a health condition that transcends age. We know long-term overuse and damage to joints causes most osteoarthritis, so we think of people who are middle-aged or older as people with arthritis. However, even younger people develop arthritis like juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. There are other conditions which can cause arthritis such as health conditions with muscle tension and muscle spasms pulling at joints as in fibromyalgia, MS, and epilepsy. I was in my 30's when I developed sudden onset of osteoarthritis with fibromyalgia. Athletes are prone to arthritis with sports injuries, for example. Anyone can have arthritis. Image by Imani Clovis on

Nutrition and Arthritis

Good nutrition is very important for managing arthritis. One of the problems people with arthritis have is inflammation of the joints, times with heat, pain, and swelling when they are irritated. Reducing or eliminating inflammatory foods is the first line of nutritional defense when managing arthritis. Avoiding foods such as red meats, highly processed foods high in sodium and preservatives, highly refined flours, animal fats and trans-fats will reduce joint inflammation. Eating fruits and vegetables high in antioxidants, vitamin C, Omega-3s, and flavinoids are the best. Such foods are berries, watermelon, tart cherries, avocado, dark green leafy vegetables, sweet potatoes, squash, red and green peppers, onions, olives, salmon, tuna, mackerel, amaranth, brown rice, oats, and quinoa. Healthy oils such as olive, grapeseed, avocado, and canola are important for joint health, too. It's important to maintain the most of the vitamin and mineral content of foods by eating fresh or frozen foods. Steaming, roasting, or broiling is preferred to pan- or deep-frying. When we consume nutritionally dense foods with lower calories, our joints will serve us well for a longer time.

Exercise and Arthritis

Exercise is also vital to the management of arthritis. Low impact aerobics such as swimming, walking, elliptical, bicycle (recumbent for back and hip problems), and water aerobics maintain bone density in the lower body, reduce load on painful joints in the lower body, and strengthen the muscles to help support those joints. Strength exercise should be lower in weight with an increase in repetitions, 1-3 set of 10-15 reps, 2-3 days a week alternating days. Supportive weight gloves with a wrist support will help protect painful hands and wrists. Good supportive shoes with cushion or impact absorption reduce the strain on back, hips, knees, and feet. Avoid overhead weight exercises to protect shoulders and neck; modifications of these exercises are available. A great strength training program can add years of use to your joints.

Stretching is vital to your routine. By spending time coaxing your muscles to relax around those painful joints, you can reduce the pain of tight tendons and muscles pulling at them. 25-30 seconds of each stretch 2-3 times each for all major muscle groups, plus those that target your painful areas may help you avoid physical therapy down the road.

Other helps for Arthritis

Managing symptoms while reducing further damage is very important living an active lifestyle. Here are a few daily activity tips:

  1. Use an assistive device to open jars and bottles with arthritis is the hands, wrist, and elbows.
  2. Balance your load when carrying items like bags of groceries, luggage, and other heavy objects. Use wheeled totes and cases whenever possible.
  3. Avoid slouching by using chairs with ergonomic support. Have your computer set so your elbows are at a 90-degree angle and your screen is at eye level.
  4. Avoid bending at the waist to pick up heavy objects. Hold objects closer to body. Use the glutes and hamstrings in your hips and thighs to help with the lift.
  5. Take any prescribed pain medications at least 1 hour before exercise. Remember these medications will blunt the pain sensors, so pay attention to our exertion level.
  6. Use ice packs or heat to reduce the pain of joints that have been overworked. Some topical pain relievers may help as well.
  7. Brace a joint only during major exertion, but ask your medical provider if 1) it is right for your condition, and 2) when it is recommended to use a brace. Bracing at the wrong times, or all the time, can reduce the strength of that body area and cause more harm than good.

May God bless you with many years of great health, even with arthritis.

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