By Kathy Hubbard
“You have to get up early in the morning, walk in the open and fresh air, breathe right and properly so it can help you relieve your pain,” a person called Buzz wrote on an arthritis support forum. “Read books daily so they can help relieve pain; do some exercise and meditation daily to relieve stress; sleep properly at night, and if after all this you feel your pain is not cured, consult with a professional for pain killers.”
Not bad advice, Buzz, but I think it would be a better idea to seek professional medical care first to determine the exact cause of your pain and the best treatment. This is especially true since there are over 100 arthritis related conditions of which roughly 25 percent of Americans suffer.
I won’t describe all of them. The most common types are osteoarthritis (OA), rheumatoid arthritis (RA), psoriatic arthritis (PsA), fibromyalgia and gout. Here’s how the Arthritis Foundation describes them:
“Osteoarthritis is a degenerative disease that affects the whole joint, the protective cartilage and fluid break down over time, making joint movement difficult and painful. Eventually, bones of the joint may rub directly against one another, causing severe pain. Inflammation is also involved in the process of OA, which most commonly affects knees hips, hands, and the spine.
“In rheumatoid arthritis, the body’s immune system is dysfunctional and attacks the tissues of the body’s own joints and other organs. Similar to RA, psoriatic arthritis is also an autoimmune inflammatory disease in which the immune system attacks the body, especially the skin and joints, causing skin rashes and pain.
“Fibromyalgia is considered a pain disorder caused by a disfunction of the central nervous system. And, gout is a form of inflammatory arthritis, but it does not cause body-wide inflammation. In gout, high levels of uric acid are the problem.”
The Arthritis Foundation points out a study that found that “one third of the adults who have arthritis report that it limits their leisure activities and work, and 25 percent of them say it causes severe pain (seven or higher on a scale of zero to 10).
“Just as there are different types of arthritis pain, there also are different treatments, both with and without medications,” they say.
There is a lot written about the efficacy of pain medications and ointments that are on the market, either by prescription or over-the-counter. My goal today is to talk about the simple things we can do to prevent pain and lessen joint damage without drugs.
Let’s start with our shoes. Arthritis Foundation advises us to dump our high heels. “Experts say a three-inch heel stresses your foot seven times more than a one-inch heel.” Also, our shoes should have enough space in the toes for them to wiggle and should be flexible at the ball of the foot.
AF recommends hanging out at the bar. That’s the salad bar to be precise. Lettuce, broccoli, spinach, kale, parsley, and other green leafy vegetables high in calcium can slow down the destruction of cartilage and lessen the amount of bone loss that occurs with age.
Since vitamin C has been proven to help slow the progression of osteoarthritis, think about snacking on an orange or drinking a glass of orange juice every day.
They also encourage those of us who need to lose a few pounds to do so. “Every extra pound you gain puts four times the stress on your knees. The flip side is that even a small amount of weight loss will give your knees relief.”
While talking knees, they say “neither sitting nor standing on your feet all day is good for your joints. When possible, alternate between the two to prevent stiffness and strain.”
When exercising, and they are high on aquatics which help maintain flexibility and range of motion without putting a load on your joints, they say to be sure to warm up first. “Start slowly and get up to speed only after your muscles and joints have at least five minutes prep time.”
Don’t stomp your feet; it’s tough on your joints; instead, switch to low-impact activities. Then, limit the amount of caffeine you drink, take a daily multi-vitamin tablet to supplement your diet, and stop smoking. Simple advice to prevent painful joints.
Kathy Hubbard is a member of the Bonner General Health Advisory Council. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.