Arthritis is very common but not very well understood. It is a general term for conditions that affect the joints and surrounding tissues. There are more than 100 different types of arthritis. A common type is rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
What is Rheumatoid Arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune inflammatory disease involving various joints in the fingers, thumbs, wrists, elbows, shoulders, knees, feet, and ankles.
Symptoms may include fatigue, fever, weight loss, eye inflammation, anaemia, subcutaneous nodules (bumps under the skin), or pleurisy (a lung inflammation).
It is a degenerative condition for which there is no permanent cure, but treatment can help to manage and control arthritis, reducing its effect on your everyday life. The main focus of treatment is towards preventing further deterioration of the joints and to increase and preserve mobility, while restricting arthritis pain, and can be achieved through natural remedies including specialized diet plans, lifestyle routines, physiotherapy and specific exercises like yoga or Pilates.
Exercises for Joint Pain
Don’t forget to ask your doctor about necessary precautions whenever starting a new exercise.
Exercise is essential if you have arthritis, but knowing just how much activity to do can be tricky. Research shows that moderate activity can help prevent progression of the disease and improve overall function. Regular physical activity keeps your joints lubricated making movement easier producing endorphins, which contribute to your overall sense of well-being and helps control pain, improves your overall health and helps you sleep easier at night.
Everyone has different fitness levels. Generally a mix of the following will be helpful:
- Flexibility exercises to maintain or improve the mobility of your joints and muscles. This may include muscle stretches and yoga.
- Exercises to strengthen, support and take pressure off sore joints; strengthen bones and improve balance. An example is using weights or dumbbells.
- Improve the health of your heart and lungs. These activities usually use the larger muscles in the body. An example is brisk walking.
Choose an activity that you enjoy. Low-impact exercises, with less weight or force going through your joints, are usually the most comfortable.
Exercising in a pool provides almost instant relief from pain and stiffness. Warm water exercise classes are ideal for people with arthritis and related conditions. The buoyancy of the water eases the pressure on painful joints which is why many people with arthritis in their feet, knees, back and hips can move more freely, and are more comfortable in water.
- It keeps you moving;
- It improves your coordination and endurance;
- It eases stiff joints and relaxes sore muscles; and
- It helps you feel better.
Low impact exercises include:
- Exercising in water, such as hydrotherapy, swimming or water exercise classes;
- Strength training;
- Tai chi;
- Yoga and Pilates;
Foods that help arthritis
Researchers have identified certain foods that can help control inflammation. Many of them are found in the Mediterranean diet, which includes fish, vegetables and olive oil. Studies also show that eating foods rich in omega-3 fats (good fats) can help reduce inflammation.
Certain types of fish are rich in inflammation-fighting omega-3 fatty acids. Fish oil contains omega-3 fats and are mostly found in oily fish. The long-term use of fish oil has been shown to reduce the reliance on anti-inflammatory drugs.
Foods rich in omega-3 fats include:
- Oily fish, such as sardines and salmon. Try to eat fish at least 2 to 3 times a week;
- Fish oil supplements;
- Ground linseed and linseed oil (also called flax seed);
- Canola oil (also called rapeseed oil); and
Certain foods have been shown to fight inflammation, strengthen bones and boost the immune system. Including these foods in your arthritis diet plan can help ease inflammation.
Fruits and Vegetables are packed with antioxidants, which support the immune system – the body’s natural defence system – and can help fight inflammation. Colourful foods such as blueberries, blackberries, cherries, strawberries, spinach, kale and broccoli are the best options.
Nuts are full of inflammation-fighting monounsaturated fat and protein. Try and eat at least a handful of nuts daily of either walnuts, pine nuts, pistachios and almonds
Beans have several antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds. They’re a low-cost source of fibre, protein, folic acid and minerals such as magnesium, iron, zinc and potassium.
Olive oil contains heart-healthy monounsaturated fat, antioxidants and oleocanthal, a compound that can lower inflammation and pain. Take two to three tablespoons per day for cooking or in salad dressings or other dishes.
Onions are packed with valuable antioxidants. They may also reduce inflammation, heart disease risk and bad cholesterol. Try them sautéed, grilled or raw in salads and stir-fries.
Avoid processed foods: Processed foods such as cookies, chips and other snacks can be high in unhealthy fats, which are linked with inflammation. Choose fresh fruit and vegetables instead. Canned goods – vegetables and soups – are often high in sodium, which raises blood pressure. Look for low sodium options, or go with fresh or frozen vegetables.
Herbal supplements for arthritis and joint pain
Fish oil supplements are available as capsules or as a liquid.
Glucosamine and chondroitin are two joint supplements from substances naturally found in healthy cartilage. Research suggests that these two supplements appear to relieve pain, improve joint mobility, and slow arthritis-related damage to the joints.
Evening primrose oil may help maintain healthy joints by modifying inflammation.
Ginger, holy basil, turmeric, green tea and rosemary all have naturally occurring anti-inflammatory compounds.