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Do You Know What to Do About Arthritis?

Aug 17, 2007
If you or someone you love suffers from arthritis, please know that you (or they) are not alone. Chances are that if you have arthritis, you probably have osteoarthritis, its most common form. It affects over 20 million people in the United States and becomes more common with age. Osteoarthritis, or OA, is a progressive degenerative disease which eventually destroys the joints it affects.

When osteoarthritis affects a joint, the cartilage, or padding between the bones in the joint, becomes worn and thinned. This causes increased friction between the bones which in turn leads to a loss of mobility, or movement, in the joint. It will also cause new bone growths, or spurs, to form around the joints. The end result is you have a joint which is painful and does not move as well as it should until it comes to a point where the bone spurs from either side of the joint eventually meet and fuse the joint. Once fused, the joint will become rigid and will no longer function.

The older you get, the greater your risk of osteoarthritis becomes. Being overweight greatly increases your risk of being affected by this form of arthritis. Obesity also speeds up the progression of this destructive disease. It has been determined that osteoarthritis may also be caused by injury to a joint, overuse as well as chronic inflammation within the body. Most commonly you will notice symptoms of osteoarthritis in your hands, feet, spine, hips, knees and ankles.

What You Can Do About Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is by far easier to prevent then it is to treat. Prevention first consists of incorporating moderate, low intensity physical activity in your daily routine. Incorporating activities such as walking, biking and use of home exercise equipment such as elliptical trainers or stair climbers regularly throughout your lifetime has been proven to make a significant impact on preventing OA. Secondly, reducing your body weight will also dramatically decrease your risk of developing OA; some studies have found it can decrease your risk by almost 50%. Last but not least, preventing injuries to the joints commonly affected by OA will improve your chances of living without arthritis.

Is it already too late for prevention for you? If so, your greatest hope is managing your osteoarthritis, as there are no known cures for this condition. Management is available several different ways, depending on the contributing factors to your situation. Chiropractic care and Physical Therapy can provide improved joint function, many times slowing the progression of arthritis while at the same time providing relief. Your chiropractor will also be able to provide specific recommendations regarding helpful diet choices and activities.

If obesity is a contributing factor, reducing your weight will greatly reduce your pain while at the same time helping to slow the progression of damage within your joints. There is no magic pill or bullet to help you lose weight. The best way for you to reduce your weight is through eating smaller portion sizes and then increasing your physical activity level. A simple way to eat less is to eat 2/3 of your typical portion size. When done so regularly, you will decrease your caloric intake enough to help you decrease weight. The beauty of it is that you won't suffer from the typical shortcomings of most diets which cause them to fail: leaving you feeling hungry after every meal.

Selecting more fruits and vegetables will also help you eat less, as they are dense foods - foods which contain a large volume of water. Dense foods fill you up faster and cause you to eat less at each sitting. Dark-colored fruits and vegetables, especially blue or purple ones, have been found to be very rich in agents called phytochemicals which greatly benefit your health in several different ways.

Increasing your physical activity doesn't mean you have to start an exercise program or enroll at gym. Rather, being physically active means moving often and can be accomplished by simply doing more of the activities which you already do.

Perhaps one of the best ways you can increase your physical activity is to increase the number of steps you walk a day. The best way to help you do this is to begin using a pedometer. Keep track of the number of steps you make per day over the course of a couple weeks. Compute your average steps per day and then set a goal to add 3000 steps per day over the next 60-90 days. Once you achieve and maintain this goal for several weeks, increase your target daily steps again by another 3000 per day. If you really want to make this work for you, talk to a friend or two to walk with you. Having someone help keep you accountable is a great way to improve your follow through with any physical activity program.

Resistive exercises which target the joints affected by osteoarthritis have also been found to slow the progression of this condition. The key isn't to see how much weight you can lift, but rather to do many repetitions of a movement using a much lighter amount of weight or resistance. 20% of your maximum has been found to be optimal in working with osteoarthritic joints. Elastic bands or weights can be used and you can very slowly increase the resistance over time.

Diet has been found to profoundly impact arthritis as well. Dietary supplements can help protect the cartilage in the joints, which is very beneficial to arthritis sufferers. Glucosamine HCl and Chondroitin Sulfate have both been found to benefit the joints. However, when taken together (in doses of 2-3 grams per day) they have been found to provide much greater benefit than what either is able to do on its own, providing better relief than prescription Celebrex.

Another supplement known as SAMe, or S-Adenosyl-methionine, has been found to be a very effective, while more expensive, aide to osteoarthritis sufferers. Doses of 400-1200mg per day have shown great results; according to one study better results than that of prescription medications for osteoarthritis, especially when 1000-1200mg are taken daily.

Relief from the pain of osteoarthritis without the side effects common to prescription medication can also be found in topical analgesics that contain menthol, camphor and/or methyl salicylate. Biofreeze, Sombra and Salonpas products have all become popular with those who suffer from arthritis and are looking for temporary relief. There does not appear to be any harm from using these products on a repeated basis, which lends to their strong popularity.

While any one of these treatments may help you with your arthritis, combining two or more of these recommendations will provide much better results. Seeking regular chiropractic care while increasing your daily physical activity (including resistive exercises), diminishing your portion size, taking supplements and using topical analgesics will give you by far the best results.

If you or someone you love has recently been diagnosed with osteoarthritis, rest assured that this is not a death sentence. Many opportunities for relief exist and with some trial and error you will be able to find solutions that are right for you.
About the Author
Dr. Nick Preston is a chiropractor focused on helping families enjoy greater health and founder of Wisdom and Health. Find products like Biofreeze, Sombra and others which can help you get relief from your arthritis symptoms.
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