The best advice I can give for arthritis-related pain is to get up and get moving. Staying active and using your joints helps to keep them lubricated and prevents further breakdown and arthritis from setting in.
Arthritis is one of the most common chronic health conditions and is the leading cause of disability in the U.S. for individuals over the age of 15.
Arthritis can make even the most mundane things difficult, including walking, bathing or even getting dressed. In 1985, some 35 million Americans were found to have some form of arthritis or chronic joint symptom. In 2006, this number rose to 46 million, and the growth is endless, with projections placing the number of those afflicted with arthritis at 67 million by 2030.
This exponential increase in doctor-diagnosed cases of arthritis comes with a cost. Every year, chronic joint conditions cost the U.S. about $128 billion and account for 750,000 hospitalizations, 35 million outpatient doctor visits and 9,500 deaths yearly.
What is arthritis?
Arthritis is defined as inflammation of one or more joints and their cartilage. Cartilage is a shock absorber as well as a lubricator of joints, allowing joints to move smoothly over each other. When joint cartilage breaks down because of injury or lack of use, the bone ends rub together, causing pain, inflammation and stiffness.
Once the cartilage is gone, it cannot be replaced. Symptoms of arthritis include joint pain, joint swelling, decreased movement in that joint, stiffness or redness and warmth of the joint. Arthritis can affect any joint in the body, with the most common being the spine, knees, hips and hands. Of the 46 million afflicted, 23 million people with arthritis feel that there is nothing that can be done and that it is something that just has to be lived with.
But this is hardly the case.
Treating arthritis and its pain
The easiest and most effective way to combat arthritis and arthritis pain is to get moving. Just walking around your house can be a great way to keep mobility and movement in your joints. If the pain of walking for distance is just too much to bear, water-based activities can be a great addition. Local health clubs or YMCAs offer a wide range of open swim times and water aerobics classes.
A simple stretching routine to keep joints and muscles limber can also be a great addition. If you are still able to move around pretty well, join a local gym or health club, hire a trainer and start working out. Among the older populations with arthritis of the knee, a study by the Archives of Internal Medicine in 2001 states that engaging in moderate physical activity at least three times per week can reduce the risk of disability from arthritis by 47 percent.
Other ways to relieve pain
Nutrition and weight loss can also be a very effective treatment for arthritis. Eating an anti-inflammatory diet consisting of mostly fruits and vegetables, lean meats and nuts and seeds can decrease total body inflammation and allow your body to better heal. Getting enough vitamins and minerals in your diet, especially calcium and vitamins D and E, can also help with healing and joint strength.
Page 2 of 2 - A diet rich in omega-3s is also a necessity to help lubricate joints and decrease inflammation, so eating good sources of fish or taking a fish oil supplement daily can help as well. Weight loss has also been shown to be effective in helping with joint deterioration as well as arthritic pain. The less additional stress that is placed upon your joints will help slow down the progression of arthritis and decrease pain. A recent study states that losing just 1 pound of body weight equates to a 4-pound reduction in knee joint stress in the overweight and obese.
Alternative treatment options
Some alternative treatments include chiropractic care and massage. The goal of a chiropractic adjustment is to induce mobility into fixated joints. When the joint does not move properly from being out of place, the joint will break down and degenerate faster than other joints around it. This is the reason why one or two joints will undergo arthritic changes at a faster rate versus every joint breaking down at the same rate.
Chiropractic care is safe for people of all ages, and no matter the degree of degeneration. Not only will chiropractic adjustments help decrease the pain associated with arthritis, but it can also help prevent the arthritis from worsening or becoming debilitating. A recent study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine found 63 percent of those who visited a rheumatologist for joint-related pain also sought a form of complementary and alternative medicine, with chiropractic being No. 1. Seventy-three percent of those that tried chiropractic for joint-related pain found it to be helpful.
Massage can also be effective to reduce muscular pain associated with arthritis. Recent research on the effects of massage show that regular use can lead to improvements in pain experienced, stiffness and range of motion and overall better function in the joints themselves.
The best advice I can give for arthritis-related pain is to get up and get moving. Staying active and using your joints helps to keep them lubricated and prevents further breakdown and arthritis from setting in. With the average life expectancy on the rise every year and with the baby boomers coming into their prime, the cost of healthcare for arthritis-related pain will continue to skyrocket unless you take action now and get a move on!
Dr. Michael Jones is a chiropractor at The Chiropractors in Springfield, Ill. For questions, email him at email@example.com.
-- Be Healthy Springfield (Ill.)