SUCH is its prevalence, particularly among the elderly, that you’d be forgiven for thinking arthritis is something that creeps up on you
over the years along with grey hairs and middle-age spread. Here is 6 tips how to beat arthritis step by step?
Fortunately there are many ways to reduce your risk and to minimise its effects if you
become a sufferer.
Arthritis is not a single disease but an umbrella term for a group of conditions that
cause pain and inflammation in and around the joints.
It affects people of all ages including children and there are many types with a range of symptoms.
The most common are pain, tenderness and stiffness around the joints, reduced movement and function, inflammation,
redness and warmth and muscle weakness.
By far the most common form is osteoarthritis which is estimated to affect 8.5million people in the UK.
While usually detected in those over the age of 50 it can start at a younger age following
over-exertion,injury or as a result of another joint problem.
While there is no cure for arthritis there are various treatments that can successfully slow down its effects and minimise joint damage
The cartilage protecting the bones around a joint becomes thin leaving the ends of the bone exposed.
This makes movement painful as the bones rub together.
Osteoarthritis is most often found in the joints of the hands, knees, hips and spine.
The second most common form is rheumatoid arthritis which is more severe but less prevalent, affecting around 400,000 people.
It is most likely to arise between the ages of 40 and 50 and is three times more common in women than men.
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks the lining of the joints causing inflammation and pain.
Movement may be reduced and bones and cartilage broken down.
Other forms of arthritis include ankylosing spondylitis, gout and lupus.
While there is no cure for arthritis there are various treatments that can successfully slow down its effects and minimise joint damage.
Plus there are some adjustments you can make to your diet and lifestyle to stay mobile and pain free.
1 WORK WITH YOUR HEALTHCARE TEAM
There isn’t just one way to manage arthritis and you need to devise a treatment plan that best suits you.
“You’ll need to work with your GP and monitor your symptoms to develop the most effective treatment plan,” says Dr Dawn Harper,
GP and expert on Channel 4’s Embarrassing Bodies.
The plan should incorporate all aspects of your wellbeing and may involve any of a long
list of healthcare professionals:
- rheumatologists, orthopaedic surgeons, pharmacists, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, orthotists, podiatrists,
- dietitians,nurse specialists, psychologists and chiropractors.
Medication for osteoarthritis can include painkillers, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and corticosteroids.
In severe cases surgery may be recommended.
Rheumatoid arthritis patients may be given painkillers and disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs.
“Don’t suffer in silence,” says Dawn.
“See your healthcare team regularly to make sure any medication and treatment you’re receiving
is the right type and dosage for whatever symptoms you have at the time.”
2 MANAGE YOUR WEIGHT
Many people with arthritis, particularly osteoarthritis, are overweight while others may gain weight as a result of their restricted
Being overweight puts extra strain on already burdened joints, especially the ankles, knees, hips, feet and spine.
“Maintaining a healthy weight can help relieve the tension in your joints, reduce pain and maintain or improve mobility,” says Dawn.
“If you’re overweight slimming can help slow the progression of arthritis. Talk to your GP about a diet plan.”
According to the charity Arthritis Research UK everyone can benefit from some form of exercise even those with arthritis.
“Arthritic people who exercise have higher levels of fitness, better muscle strength,
a greater ability to do daily tasks and improved mood and emotional wellbeing,” says Dawn.
Exercise also helps to maintain a healthy heart and blood vessels and some specific exercises may help to improve bone strength.
Aim for a mix of strength training, stretching and aerobic exercise.
4 EAT TO EASE SYMPTOMS
In addition to following a wellbalanced diet for overall wellbeing and to maintain a healthy weight Arthritis Research UK
says it is worth having a good intake of the following nutrients:
Inflammatory types of arthritis such as rheumatoid may be helped by omega-3 essential fatty acids EPA and DHA found in oil-rich fish.
Experts recommend two portions a week but you may want to take a supplement containing 3g each of EPA and DHA especially if you’re
(omega-3 oils are found in ground flaxseeds and their oil, rapeseed oil and walnuts, although they are less easily absorbed by the body).
Promising research at the University of Bristol has for the first time linked omega-3 intake to the slowing or prevention of osteoarthritis
Early signs of the condition such as degradation of collagen in the cartilage reduced when omega-3 fats were consumed.
Glucosamine sulphate and chondroitin
These supplements are commonly taken for arthritis. Both are found in the body.
Glucosamine is one of the building blocks for cartilage while chondroitin is a substance that helps keep cartilage spongy
and healthy by drawing in water.
Latest research suggests they are not particularly effective at relieving pain although Arthritis Research UKargues taking supplements may
still be worthwhile for some osteoarthritis sufferers to help nourish the cartilage (ask your doctor before taking supplements).
Balance your diet
The support charity Arthritis Care suggests these foods may also help symptoms:
Nuts contain omega-3 fats which may ease stiffness and reduce inflammation.
Pecans, walnuts and hazelnuts are especially high in antioxidants and Brazils are loaded with selenium which may help limit the damage
that occurs in arthritis.
Oil-rich fish. The omega-3 fats they contain may help fight inflammation, pain in the joints and stiffness.
Dairy products are high in calcium, essential for healthy bones.
Choose low-fat varieties as they contain just as much or a little more calcium.
Whole grains contain magnesium for healthy bones.
Berries are full of antioxidants that may help to reduce inflammation. ?
Cherries may play a role in reducing inflammation and pain.
Citrus fruits are rich in vitamin C, which may protect against inflammatory arthritis.
No appetite? It’s common to lose it as a result of pain or through depression.
If this is the case it may help to eat smaller, frequent meals and always avoid fasting or crash diets.
Drugs used to control rheumatoid arthritis may have nutritional side effects or increase
the risk of diet deficiencies.
If you are concerned ask to be referred to a registered dietitian to ensure your nutritional needs are met.
Scientists at the University of East Anglia found a compound in broccoli called sulforaphane which may block the enzymes that cause
joint destruction in osteoarthritis.
Another study found women with the highest intake of vegetables of the allium family (garlic, onions and leeks)
have the lowest levelsof hip osteoarthritis.
5 CONSIDER COMPLEMENTARY THERAPIES
There are many options that may lower the physical and emotional toll of arthritis although it’s a matter of trial and error
and finding a therapy you feel is worthwhile and affordable.
Some approaches thought to offer relief include the Alexander technique, acupuncture, aromatherapy, wearing a copper bracelet and
Other methods include magnet therapy, relaxation, meditation and hypnosis, manipulative therapies such as chiropractic or osteopathy,
wax bath therapy and herbal medicine.
“Tell your doctor about any therapies you want to try but continue to take your prescribed medication,” says Dawn.
“Also tell the complementary practitioner about your condition before receiving any treatment.”
There is increasing evidence that a Mediterraneanstyle diet including plenty of fish, beans, grains,
fruit and vegetables and small amounts of red meat may help with arthritis.
6 TRY NEW WAYS TO MANAGE PAIN
Even when you do all of the above there may still be times when you experience arthritic pain.
Experiment with techniques to manage it: apply an ice pack, take a warm bath, meditate, try deep-breathing exercises or listen to music.
A new Australian study has found psychotherapy may be an effective intervention for rheumatoid arthritis.
Patients given cognitive therapy showed greater improvements in inflammation and joint tenderness than a control group.
Arthritis Research UK believes this shows the importance of psychological
and emotional support for patients.
If you feel you’d benefit from counselling speak to your GP about a referral or contact the British Association for Counselling & Psychotherapy .
Talking to other people who share your symptoms and experiences may also help.
Below is a list of organisations with forums and phone services that can put you in contact with others.