Arthritis and You: A Healthy, Active Life
Arthritis is an incurable, painful, degenerative joint disease that can adversely affect your lifestyle if you let it. However, many people afflicted with arthritis lead active lives that can be relatively free from the discomfort of arthritis.
Current methods of treating arthritis include:
- Weight loss
- Dietary adjustments
- Mechanical aids
Weight loss can significantly impact arthritic pain. Climbing stairs exerts six times the body weight in force on the knees and legs, so a one-pound weight loss will reduce the force on your knees by 6 pounds. Losing 10 pounds will result in a 60-pound reduction in force on your knees and legs.
Although it may seem counterintuitive, exercising can positively affect arthritic joints and increase mobility for several reasons.
- Exercising releases endorphins that help alleviate pain as well as provide an emotional boost.
- Exercising increases muscle mass, which will facilitate mobility, which will reduce stress on joints as well as provide another emotional boost.
- As long as you don’t increase your caloric intake, exercising can help you lose some of the weight that is putting stress on your joints.
It’s important to select non-impact exercises that will not exacerbate arthritic pain. Exercises that are recommended for those with arthritis include:
- Walking, including resistance walking in a pool
- Stationary bike riding
Yoga and tai-chi are excellent methods for increasing flexibility and strength without subjecting the joints to strenuous exercise. Both yoga and tai chi are excellent for improving balance and reducing stress; stress can trigger some types of arthritic pain.
Some foods can aggravate arthritis. Consumption of fast food and high-calorie foods can cause weight gain, which will aggravate arthritis. Some foods to limit and/or avoid in your diet are:
- Saturated fat, which should be less than 10 percent of your total daily calories
- Omega-6 fats, which include corn, soy, sunflower, safflower, and vegetable oils
- Trans fats, which should be completely avoided
- Processed sugar, which can be white sugar or anything ending in “-ose”
- Refined carbohydrates such as white flour, white rice, white bread, and so forth
- Aspartame, which is a neurotoxin
- MSG, or monosodium glutamate, which is a flavor enhancer
- Alcohol, if consumed to excess
Some studies indicate that gluten and casein can exacerbate arthritis, but it appears to primarily affect those who have a pre-existing sensitivity to them. The best test is to pay attention to your body’s signals; if you eat something and it aggravates your arthritis, then try to avoid it in the future.
Canes and walkers can help with mobility for those afflicted with arthritis. Most insurance plans will provide them so there shouldn’t be an out-of-pocket expense for them. When walking with a cane, use it on the affected side as an adjunct to the leg.
Many medications are available that help with arthritic pain and facilitate mobility. Most have side effects that can range from mild to severe. For those who prefer to avoid pharmaceutical intervention, many natural herbs and remedies are available, such as:
- Hot and cold treatments
- Electrical stimulation
- Occupational therapy
It’s important to get enough quality sleep so that you wake up rested and refreshed. Lack of sleep puts stress on your body, which aggravates arthritis.
Joint replacement surgery has advanced tremendously and can provide permanent relief from arthritic pain. However, many surgeons prefer to use this as a last resort rather than the first one. Joint replacement is major surgery and therefore invasive.
Adopting a lifestyle that includes weight loss, exercising, and dietary changes can yield positive, non-surgical results for many who have arthritis.
With all the choices available to those who are diagnosed with arthritis, a healthy and active life is very achievable.