Arthritis is an incredibly common condition that affects about eighty per cent of the adult population at some time in their lives. While there are many types of arthritis, they all cause pain, stiffness, and swelling in the joints. People with arthritis may have trouble getting out of bed in the morning or bending over to tie their shoes. In some cases, the joints get so stiff and achy that even fastening a button can seem like an impossible task.
Even though there are more than one hundred kinds of arthritis, the two most common forms are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Osteoarthritis, also known as “wear and tear” arthritis, occurs when cartilage in the joints breaks down – as a result of injuries or too much weight, or even simple a lifetime of repeated bending, flexing and shifting. When the cartilage is damaged, bones begin rubbing against each other, causing pain. This can make even the simplest tasks, such as opening a jar, difficult.
Rheumatoid arthritis also causes cartilage to weaken and bones to rub. However, it’s not simply caused by wear and tear. For reasons that aren’t yet clear, rheumatoid arthritis causes the immune system to begin attacking the joints, wearing away cartilage and causing the joints to become inflamed and very tender.
Even though the different types of arthritis act in different ways, many of the remedies are the same. There are many things you can do to alleviate pain and swelling and to help keep your joints mobile.
Relief is as close as your kitchen . You wouldn’t think that what you put on the menu would have any market effect on arthritis, but research suggests that some foods, like asparagus, garlic, and onions, can help. These foods contain sulfur compounds, which can help your body repair damaged tissue throughout the body, including the tissue in the joints.
Get more vitamin C . This all-purpose nutrient has been shown to help relieve a variety of problems, including arthritis. Vitamic C is an antioxidant, which means it helps block the effects of harmful oxygen molecules in the body. It has also been shown to help the immune system work more efficiently. This can help ease inflammation in the joints and arthritis pain.
You can get plenty of vitamin C by eating a variety of fruit and vegetables, including citrus fruits, broccoli, and peppers. Many doctors also recommend taking a vitamin C supplement to maximize your in take.
Help from a special fat . Most of us are trying to cut back on the amount of fat we eat, but one type of fat, gamma linolenic acid (GLA), can help fight swelling in the joints as well as calm the immune system in people with rheumatoid arthritis. You can find this fatty acid in oils, nuts, and fish. To get the most benefit, experts recommend eating cold-water fish, such as mackerel, tuna, salmon, sardines, and bluefish, at least twice a week.
You can also find this fatty acid in primrose oil, borage oil, and black currant oil, which are available in health food stores. When taking these or other fatty acid supplements, read the label to make sure you’re getting the proper amounts.
Consider cayenne. Cayenne contains a substance called capsaicin, which has been shown to block chemicals in the body responsible for transmitting pain signals to the brain. Of course, you’d have to eat a lot of cayenne pepper to get the benefits. An easier strategy is to take cayenne pepper to get the benefits. An easier strategy is to take cayenne capsules, which are available in health food stores.’
Put it on ice. One of the quickest ways to stop arthritis pain is to simply apply cold to your aching joints. You can use cold packs, or simply wrap ice cubes in a washcloth or towel and apply it for fifteen or twenty minutes, several times a day. A shortcut is to use a bag of frozen peas.
Or try some heat. Hot towels or a heating pad on painful joints will help increase blood flow, which can relieve pain and ease swelling and stiffness.
Keep your weight in check . If you’ve wanted to lose weight but haven’t, here’s another reason to try again. Carrying extra weight puts additional strain on your joints, increasing their wear and tear, and making them more likely to hurt when arthritis flares. In fact, there’s some evidence that extra body fat increases arthritis even in joints that don’t bear body weight.
Keep your joints moving . Regular exercise is a powerful ally in fighting arthritis pain as well as in preventing it in the first place. Exercise helps in several ways. It helps strengthen muscles surrounding the joints, so they provide more support. Keeping the joints moving also increases their internal lubrication so they move more easily and with less strain.
Taking walks once or twice a day is superb exercise for people with arthritis. Not only will walking strengthen muscles, it is relatively low impact, so it puts very little stress on the joints. Swimming and bicycling are also good for easing and preventing arthritis pain.
When starting an exercise program, be sure to start out slowly. Doing too much all at once will only make your joints hurt more. As a rule, doctors recommend exercising three or four times a week, for twenty to thirty minutes each time. And don’t forget to warm up by stretching for several minutes before putting your body in motion. This will help keep muscles and joints limber, so you don’t hurt yourself along the way.
Make simple changes . When arthritis flares, even the simplest things – like cleaning or raking the yard or opening a door – can be painful. There are many small things you can do that will make life easier. For example, replace door knobs (which can be hard to turn) with easy-to-life levers. But an electric can opener to replace your hand-held model. Some people even shop for clothes with zippers instead of buttons. Little changes, yes, but over time they can make life a lot more comfortable.