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). Read on to find out more information about arthritis.
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. An autoimmune disease is one in which the body releases enzymes that attack its own healthy tissues. In the case of rheumatoid arthritis, the enzymes destroy the linings of joints causing pain, swelling, stiffness, malformation, and reduced movement and function.
It is not known what causes rheumatoid arthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis symptoms may include fatigue, fever, weight loss, eye inflammation, anaemia, subcutaneous nodules (bumps under the skin), or pleurisy (a lung inflammation).
Arthritis 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 arthritis treatment, whether with conventional treatment or with natural arthritis remedies is towards preventing further deterioration of the joints and to increase and preserve mobility, while restricting arthritis pain.
Arthritis pain relief and management is best achieved through a combination of medical treatments and natural remedies or self care that could include specialized arthritis diet plans, lifestyle routines, and physiotherapy that may include 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 the progression of arthritis and improve overall function. Doing some form of regular physical activity keeps your joints lubricated making movement easier; it produces endorphins, which contribute to your overall sense of well-being and helps control pain; it improves your overall health and helps you sleep easier at night.
Everyone has different fitness levels. Some people with arthritis may find a 5km walk comfortable, but others may find walking around the block difficult. Generally you will need to do a mix of:
- Flexibility exercises to maintain or improve the mobility of your joints and muscles. This may include moving the joint as far as it can, muscle stretches and yoga.
- Exercises to strengthen joints to help to support and take pressure off sore joints, strengthen bones and improve balance. An example is using weights or dumbbells.
- Fitness: to improve the health of your heart and lungs. These activities usually use the larger muscles in the body, rather than exercising a specific area, and may make you ‘puff ’ a little. An example is brisk walking.
There isn’t just one particular exercise or activity that is recommended for all people with arthritis. Choose an activity that you enjoy and that is convenient for you to do. Low-impact exercises, with less weight or force going through your joints, are usually most comfortable.
Do you remember what it was like to walk without aches and pains? You can get that sensation back by taking your workout to the water. Exercising in a pool provides nearly instant relief from pain and stiffness. Warm water exercise classes are ideal for people with arthritis and related conditions.
Warm water exercises for Joint Pain Relief?
- It keeps you moving;
- It improves your coordination and endurance;
- It eases stiff joints and relaxes sore muscles; and
- It helps you feel better.
Water exercise is an excellent way for arthritis sufferers to build strength, ease stiff joints and relax sore muscles. 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 than they are on land. The heat of the water can also relieve pain and warm up your muscles and joints so they are able to move easily.
Low impact exercises include:
- Exercising in water, such as hydrotherapy (with a physiotherapist), swimming or water exercise classes;
- Strength training;
- Tai chi;
- Yoga and Pilates;
What foods can help with your arthritis diet
Most foods have no effect on arthritis, and while there is no specific “diet” researchers have identified certain foods that can help control inflammation. Many of them are found in the so-called Mediterranean diet, which includes fish, vegetables and olive oil. Studies also show that eating foods rich in omega-3 fats can help reduce inflammation. While the effects are modest compared to traditional arthritis medicine, omega-3 fats do not have serious side effects.
Certain types of fish are rich in inflammation-fighting omega-3 fatty acids, which reduces inflammatory proteins in your body. Fish Oil has shown promising results in the treatment of arthritis from multiple studies but there are still some doubts about its effectiveness. Fish oils contain a certain type of fat called omega-3. Omega-3 fats are mostly found in oily fish and certain nut and seed oils. The long-term use of fish oil has been shown to reduce the reliance on anti-inflammatory drugs in some cases of rheumatoid arthritis. It is highly unlikely that you can obtain enough omega-3 fats from your diet to reduce inflammation without fish oil supplements.
Foods rich in omega-3 fats include:
- Oily fish, such as sardines and salmon, have greater amounts of omega-3 fats. 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 diet may help ease the symptoms of inflammatory arthritis.
Fruits and Vegetables are packed with antioxidants, which support the immune system – the body’s natural defense system – and may help fight inflammation. Colorful foods such as blueberries, blackberries, cherries, strawberries, spinach, kale and broccoli are the best options.
Nuts are full of inflammation-fighting monounsaturated fat, protein and filling fiber, too – a bonus if you’re trying to lose a few pounds. Try and eat at least about 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 fiber, 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. Extra virgin olive oil is less refined and processed. It retains more nutrients than standard varieties
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, stir-fries, whole-wheat pasta dishes or sandwiches.
Fiber lowers C-reactive protein (CRP), a substance in the blood that indicates inflammation. Foods that have cartenoids, the antioxidants that give carrots, peppers and some fruits their color, are good at lowering CRP.
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 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.
Best Supplements for joint pain and stiffness
Fish oil supplements are available as capsules or as a liquid. Bottled fish oil is generally the most convenient and least expensive way to take the dose needed to reduce inflammation.
Glucosamine and chondroitin are two joint supplements from substances naturally found in healthy cartilage. Research suggests that glucosamine sulfate – alone or in combination with chondroitin sulfate – appears 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, rosemary, scutlellaria and huzhang all have naturally occurring anti-inflammatory compounds known as COX-2 inhibitors.
Complementary therapies are treatments or therapies that are not part of the conventional treatment (such as medicines or surgery) of a disease. Examples of complementary therapies include acupuncture, massage, aromatherapy, vitamin and mineral supplements and herbal medicines
There is moderate evidence to suggest that Gamma linoleic acid (found in evening primrose oil, borage/starflower seed oil and blackcurrant seed oil) has shown a positive result in the treatment of arthritis from a single study, but there are important doubts about whether it works.
There is limited evidence to suggest that Acupuncture, Krill oil and Phytodolor (a blend of tree bark and plant extracts) has any effect on the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.
Because many complementary therapies have not been thoroughly tested, it is not known if they are safe or unsafe. Complementary medicines need to be treated with the same care and respect as other medicines. Many complementary medicines can cause side effects and may interact with other medicines (eg. prescription medicines). This can cause serious health problems or make other medicines less effective.
ALWAYS check with your doctor or pharmacist before using any complementary therapy.