Arthritis is the most widespread chronic disease in people over age 45, even when you consider the untold millions who never see a doctor about the blasted pain in their joints.
When you do see a doctor about that blasted pain, he will usually tell you what kind of arthritis you have. There are more than 100 different types of arthritis but most fall into two broad categories.
Rheumatoid arthritis (or inflammatory arthritis) is relieved with anti-inflammatory drugs, though lifestyle changes and diet may help. Osteoarthritis (or non-inflammatory arthritis) is a result of deterioration of cartilages in the joints because of an injury or excessive use. Proper exercise and weight control are the key treatment here, including pain relievers.
Here are some doctor recommended tips to help alleviate the pain from your arthritis.
Eat your vegetables
The goal for arthritis sufferer is to cut as much saturated fat from their diet as possible and replace it with more polyunsaturated fat, so a vegetarian diet is highly recommended. It has been found out by researchers that people on a vegetarian diet has major improvements in one month after cutting out meat products, sugar, dairy products and foods with gluten.
Try something fishy
One of the best sources of polyunsaturated fat is cold-water fish such as salmon, sardines and herring. They are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to have some minor beneficial effect on reducing the inflammatory aspects of arthritis.
Probably the most important thing you can do for osteoarthritis is exercise as much as much as you’re able to. You’ll find that the better your physical condition, the less arthritis pain you’ll have.
Doctors recommend low impact aerobic exercises, and, if tolerated, very light weight lifting with one or two-pound dumbbells. Build up the muscle and tissue surrounding the joint. You can exercise on a floor mat, in a chair, on a stationary bicycle or in the water. The key is regularity, doing it no less than three times a week but preferably daily.
Learn your food “triggers”
Some people with rheumatoid arthritis seem to flare up after eating certain foods – especially alcohol, milk tomatoes, and certain nuts. Although there’s really no telling what your trigger might be, if you notice your condition worsens after eating a certain food, try to avoid it. The same goes for foods that improve arthritis, such as fish and fiber; try to eat them more regularly.
Take time to smell the roses
When you’re tensed up, you hurt more. Many people use relaxation as an effective way of diminishing arthritis pain. It really doesn’t matter what to do—biofeedback, meditation, even listening to music—whatever helps you relax. The point is to practice a regular relaxation period and then also use relaxation when pain is particularly severs.
Being overweight can enhance damage to joints by putting excess pressure on them, resulting in worsening osteoarthritis, so doctors advise losing any excess weight you’re carrying. In fact, being overweight increases your risk of developing osteoarthritis, even if you don’t have it now.
Try slowing dancing
Dancing is a good way to combine weight loss, exercise and stress reduction. Many patients in easy dance routines created as part of an overall education and activity program that shows them how to exercise while protecting their joints. Easy slow dancing is perfect for those with inflammatory arthritis, or osteoarthritis, because it’s low impact.
Reach for the “right” pain reliever
Not all pain relievers are the same--- at least for those with arthritis. People with inflammatory arthritis should get more relief from aspirin or ibuprofen (Advil) but may get more stomach irritation with these. For over-the-counter pain relief without stomach irritation, doctors recommend acetaminophen (eg. Tylenol). Recommended doses of these drugs should not be exceeded, nor regular dosing be continued for more than three weeks without consulting your physician.
Immobilize the pain
Splints, slings, cervical collars and other protective devices are extremely useful when an area is particularly painful or inflamed. But doctors cautioned that you can’t leave on these devices for more than two days at a time. Even though these devices help reduce pain, your muscles can “rely” on them and weaken very quickly.
Use ice and heat judiciously
Although both ice packs and heat packs can provide some relief, don’t use either for more than ten minutes at a time. Usually ice is used to prevent swelling but may also douse pain; heat in small doses may promote muscle relaxation and soothe pain.