Could It Be Arthritis? How To Improve Your Joint Pain

Many of us make the mistake of assuming that arthritis is something that develops as we age and that nothing can be done about it. Since May is Arthritis Awareness Month, we thought it would be a good time to talk about a very common but impairing chronic illness that can be prevented, improved, or even reversed with healthy lifestyle changes.

Sometimes the signs of a chronic illness can be easy to miss. Our lives often whisk us away and distract us from what’s happening with our bodies. We can be experiencing chronic inflammation long before we actually start to feel it and take notice. We all experience different kinds of inflammation for various reasons at any given time. However, if you’re asking yourself whether it’s arthritis, you may be onto something.

What is Arthritis?

Arthritis is inflammation of a joint(s).

Inflammation is known as the body’s attempt to protect itself and start the healing process. Your body’s inflammatory response is triggered when tissues are injured by bacteria, trauma, toxins, heat, or any other cause. Although inflammation helps heal wounds, too much inflammation, and inflammation lasting for long periods of time, is harmful to the body. Inflammation can be aggravated by lifestyle habits.

How do you know if you are experiencing inflammation? Well, inflammation can be as overt as a swollen knee. It can also happen inside our bodies to a much less noticeable extent, building up over time and becoming a serious problem. Chronic or excess inflammation causes most chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease, stroke, liver problems, cancer, dementia, fibromyalgia, and autoimmune disease like thyroid disorder, multiple sclerosis, and rheumatoid arthritis.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 52.5 million people report having been diagnosed with some form of arthritis by their doctor. Arthritis may be caused by an underlying disease, infection, or a genetic defect. Arthritis may cause chronic pain, stiffness, and swelling in the joints and can impair a person’s ability to perform regular daily tasks. It is more common among adults aged 65 years or older, but people of all ages (including children) can be affected by arthritis.

When younger people experience joint pain, they hardly ever consider the possibility that it could be a symptom of arthritis. That’s why it’s important to increase awareness about the importance of lifelong joint health. Taking steps early in life to protect your joints can help prevent further pain and future permanent damage.

Common Types of Arthritis

There are over 200 different kinds of arthritis and related conditions. Some common forms of arthritis include:

  • Osteoarthritis: the most common type. It is a degenerative “wear-and-tear” joint disease where pain and swelling stem from the progressive loss of cartilage in the joints. It is considered a normal symptom of aging and can also result from previous damage to the joints.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis: the second most common type of arthritis. It is characterized by inflammation, swelling, fatigue, and pain in the hands (especially the knuckles), wrists, elbows, shoulders, knees, and feet. This type of arthritis affects people’s abilities to function more severely, but on the bright side, diagnosing rheumatoid arthritis early can help reduce the impact of the disease on your daily quality of life.
  • Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis: It come in multiple forms and affects young children. Diagnosing this type of arthritis early will give your child a better chance to adapt, form healthy habits, and learn how to manage symptoms successfully to reduce the impact it has in their daily life.

Arthritis Symptoms

Early signs of arthritis may be mistaken as vague ghost pains or some sort of injury, strain, or overuse of joints. You may feel tenderness in joints and experience some temporary loss in function. Symptoms can vary depending on what type of arthritis it is. Common symptoms of arthritis include:

  • Chronic pain
  • Stiffness
  • Swelling
  • Redness
  • Decreased range of motion in the affected region (joints)

How To Prevent and Improve Arthritis Symptoms

The best way to prevent or help resolve inflammation is to listen to your body and pay attention to what increases or reduces your body’s inflammatory response. Making changes to your lifestyle one step at a time will make a huge difference.

Try the following tips on how to reduce inflammation, improve your arthritis, and stay healthy:

Try an Anti-Inflammatory Diet

Controlling inflammation anywhere in the body has a lot to do with diet. There are many ways you can adjust your eating habits to help prevent, reduce, or reverse arthritis.

First, try to avoid or minimize your consumption of wheat, bread, eggs, dairy, soy, seafood, red meat, alcohol, caffeine, sugar, and food coloring since they are the most common dietary irritants. Trans-fatty acids are also linked to an increase in inflammation. They are found in margarine, fried foods, packaged cookies, crackers, and many other processed, pre-packaged ready-made food.

To reduce inflammation, it’s important to make green leafy vegetables the biggest staple of your diet. They are full of vitamins which protect your immune system and are critical for every cell function. When eating a meal, green vegetables should take up half the plate. Snack on raw vegetables to satisfy your cravings.

Mix up your meals with a side of beans or non-wheat whole grains like millet, quinoa, brown rice, or fareo. They contain a high dose of magnesium, which helps keep inflammation low. Another easy way to help boost your meals with anti-inflammatory properties is to cook with herbs such as turmeric, ginger, Boswellia (also called Indian frankincense), and oregano. Curcumin, the medicinal extract of turmeric, can also be taken as a supplement. It has been proven to cause a significant improvement in decreasing inflammation and arthritic pain.

Omega 3 has powerful anti-inflammatory properties. You will find them in seeds and nuts like almonds, flax and chia seeds.

Exercise

Boost your body’s natural anti-inflammatory capabilities with exercise. Exercise will help strengthen and maintain the muscles around your joints. It doesn’t have to mean going to the gym or starting a regimented fitness routine, but regular physical exercise helps to keep joints flexible and produces healthy antioxidants in your body that fight inflammation. Yoga, pilates, and swimming are good low-impact options. Try incorporating stretches and range of motion exercises into your routine.

Other Tips To Reduce Arthritis

  • Use hot and cold therapy: take warm baths or showers to help ease joint stiffness and use ice packs to relieve joint pain or swelling. If you’re taking a bath, try adding epsom salts, which are naturally high in magnesium.
  • Regularly massaging your joints with arthritis can help improve your range of motion and reduce pain and stiffness. You don’t need to hire a professional either. There are many self-massaging techniques that you can learn!
  • Make sure you get enough sleep! Loss of sleep hinders your immune system and can trigger inflammatory responses.

By treating the underlying cause of the chronic inflammation, arthritis can be remarkably lessened or reversed. By taking a natural approach to treating arthritis and creating a personalized treatment plan, positive results are felt quickly. Work with an integrative holistic physician such as Dr. Payal Bhandari, M.D., to formulate the right treatment will effectively reduce symptoms of arthritis and improve your quality of life. She can also give you advice on any medications and supplements you need to take, if necessary.

This article was originally published at sfadvancedhealth.com and republished here with the permission from Payal Bhandari MD.