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Outsmarting Your Arthritis
March 7, 2018 No comments
Practical knowledge to prevent and handle painful and creaking joints
The term arthritis came from the Greek words arthro- meaning joint and –itis meaning inflammation. Put them together, and you have joint inflammation. The term arthritis is basically a term given to any form of joint disorder. There are more than 140 different types or forms of arthritis. They all manifest with a general set of symptoms pinpointing the joint or joints affected. These symptoms include joint pain, stiffness, swelling, and limitation in the range of motion for the joint. The appearance of symptoms can be acute or gradual in onset.
Different Types of Arthritis
|Osteo- Arthritis||Rheumatoid Arthritis||Gouty Arthritis|
|How common is it in New Zealand?||Most common form. More than 387,000 are affected.||Third most common. About 87,000 are affected. 3x more common in women.||Second most common. Affects more men than women.|
|How common is it in Australia?||Most common form. 1.6 million are affected.||2nd most common. More than 428,000 are affected. 3x more common in women.||Third most common. 70,000 are affected. Affects more men than women.|
|What happens to your joints?||Cartilage loss, so bones rub & grind on each other. Known as “wear and tear”.||Your immune system attacks your joints.||Urate crystals accumulate inside your joints.|
|Signs and symptoms.||Morning stiffness, increasing disability, poor coordination Most common in the knee joints.||Affects the same joints on both sides. Most common in the small joints of your hands and wrists.||Affected joints can be very painful. A joint in your big toe (podagra) is the most commonly affected. Other joints can also be affected.|
|Other organs or systems involved.||None.||Your skin, heart, lungs, and eyes.||Purplish skin over the affected joint.|
|Ankylosing Spondylitis||Lupus Arthritis||Psoriatic Arthritis|
|How common is it in New Zealand?||1 in 6 are affected. Affects more men than women.||1 in 900 people are affected. 10x more common in women than men.||1 in 6 are affected. 1-2 out of every 10 people with psoriasis will get arthritis.|
|How common is it in Australia?||1 in 200 are affected. Affects more men than women.||1 in 1,000 are affected. 9x more common in women than men.||1.6 million are affected by psoriasis. About 480,000 are affected by psoriatic arthritis.|
|What happens to your joints?||Spinal bones get fused together by by new bone. The exact cause is unknown.||Your immune system creates antibodies that attack your joints.||Your immune system attacks your joints. Usually triggered by an infection.|
|Signs and symptoms.||Affects your spinal bones causing them to fuse to each other. Early morning back pain and stiffness.||Fever, fatigue, butterfly rash on nose and cheeks, hair loss, photosensitivity (eyes), seizures. Purple or pale toes and fingers in response to cold.||Can affect any joints in your body.|
|Other organs or systems involved.||Eyes, Heart.||Skin, eyes, central nervous system, kidneys.||Scalp, elbows, and knees. Swollen toes and fingers. Neck and back pain.|
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Other less common types of arthritis include septic arthritis, fibromyalgia, reactive arthritis, scleroderma and polymyalgia rheumatica among others.
Preventing Arthritis in General
Let’s get it out in the open first. There’s no absolute way you can completely prevent arthritis. Factors like age, gender (women > men, sorry ladies), and family history are way out of your control. You can’t do anything about them. But there are some healthy changes you can make that can decrease your risk of developing arthritis. Most of these practices are also useful in the prevention of other diseases.
- Eat fish. Does it sound simple enough? It should. A study documented that fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids decrease inflammation throughout your body especially in your joints. Examples of fish high in omega-3 fatty acids include sardines, trout, mackerel, and salmon.
- Lose the excess weight. This sounds like a cliché, but the consequences of being overweight can take a huge toll on your knees leading to osteoporosis especially among women. A study at Johns Hopkins Arthritis Centre found that just being 10 pounds (4.5 kg) overweight elevates the force on your knees between 30-60 pounds (13.6-27 kg) with every step! Ouch! No wonder they hurt so much.
- Stay away from foods that promote inflammation. Sugar, trans fats (in processed and fast foods), too much omega-6 fatty acids (in most plant oils), refined carbohydrates (French fries, bread, cakes, cookies), foods with monosodium glutamate (MSG) or artificial sweeteners and gluten are all examples of foods that are pro-inflammatory to your joints.
- Do some exercise. Another cliché? We hope not. You need to strengthen the muscles and ligaments around your joints. You can do that by engaging in some strengthening exercises like a bit of weight lifting. To keep the balance, don’t forget to do some aerobic (swimming, walking) and stretching exercises as well.
Talk to a personal trainer to help you work out the best types of exercises for you to do.
- Take good care of your joints. Avoid direct trauma during contact sports by wearing the proper gear and protective equipment. Consult your healthcare practitioner if you feel something different in any of your joints.
What You Can Do about Your Arthritis
Non-pharmacologic treatments. The use of non-pharmacologic treatments for the alleviation of arthritis symptoms is fairly common. Examples include massage, physical therapy, balneotherapy (spa therapy), hydrotherapy, and low-level laser therapy.
Supplements. All of the supplements listed below are backed by science and not sales talk. These supplements aren’t around to cure your arthritis. They’re only here to ease your symptoms and facilitate your body’s ability to recover from joint inflammation.
- Fish oils. Taking a fish oil supplement gives you much more omega-3 fatty acids than eating fish alone. Omega-3’s help to promote a healthy inflammatory response in your body and also balance out the pro-inflammatory effects of omega-6 fatty acids in other foods in your diet.
- Glucosamine and chondroitin. The cartilage around your joints is composed of scaffolding substances called glucosamine and chondroitin. If your joints sustain damage or injury, so does your cartilage. Cartilage around your joints is produced to withstand your weight and distribute it evenly. You have to supply it with the substances it needs to serve its function. Research studies have shown that chondroitin and glucosamine enhance joint mobility, alleviate pain, and slow down the development of osteoarthritis in p articular.
If you’re taking diuretics or blood thinners, inform your doctor because glucosamine and chondroitin supplements can interfere with their pharmacologic actions.
- Follow a low inflammatory diet (or anti-inflammatory diet). A moderate amount of low sugar fruits (especially berries) and lots of fresh vegetables (especially greens like collard, kale, spinach), healthy fats, include fish regularly (sardines and salmon), moderate amounts of red meat and some nuts are typical components of an anti-inflammatory diet.
Boswellia is a common medicine used in Ayurvedic practice. Studies have documented its efficacy in alleviating pain from knee osteoarthritis.
Curcumin is a natural compound found in the turmeric that most of us know and love. It fights off inflammation and gives relief from pain.
Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) is a rising nemesis of diseases that promote inflammation (like arthritis). MSM contains sulphur, an element that plays a role in the proper functioning of your immune system. A well tamed immune system contributes wonders to your joints. Also, MSM is needed in the production of glucosamine and collagen.
Devil’s Claw is an anti-inflammatory herb used throughout Europe which may be helpful for the inflammation and pain associated with osteoarthritis.
Vitamin D helps to regulate calcium balance in your body. It’s needed for calcium absorption in your intestines. Without adequate vitamin D, your bones might be out of shape (misshapen) and lead to osteomalacia. Calcium and magnesium are two other nutrients you shouldn’t forget about. Some medications (glucocorticoids) used in the management of arthritis (particularly rheumatoid arthritis) increase your risk of developing osteoporosis. To counteract this, you need sufficient amounts of calcium and magnesium in your diet.
Boron supplementation in research studies demonstrated increased bone strength. It has a positive effect on the activity of enzymes and metabolism of calcium, vitamin D, and magnesium, all involved in the prevention of arthritis.
Proteolytic systemic enzymes fight the symptoms of arthritis through reducing inflammation and dissolving fibrin and clots in blood vessels near inflamed joints. They ensure an adequate supply of nutrients and oxygen to promote repair processes. As a consequence, patients feel less pain and inflammation from their creaking joints. Examples of systemic enzymes noteworthy of mention in relation to arthritis include serrapeptase and bromelain.
The Bottom Line
There are several different kinds of arthritis. Fortunately for us, there are also several available treatment options and supplements to overcome the symptoms. Know which type of arthritis you have and lay out a management plan for your symptoms. Of course, don’t try to diagnose arthritis yourself (whichever type you may have). See your healthcare practitioner for that. Take good care of your joints, and they’ll take good care of you for a lifetime.
- Kasper, D. L., Fauci, A. S., Hauser, S. L., Longo, D. L., Jameson, J. L., & Loscalzo, J. (2015). Harrison's principles of internal medicine. New York: McGraw Hill Education.
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