September is Arthritis Awareness Month
The Arthritis Society informs us that 1 in 5 Canadians live every day with Arthritis and there is no cure.
Arthritis (arthro = joint, itis = inflammation) is a condition in which one or more of your joints are inflamed. A joint is an area of the body where two different bones meet for the purpose of movement or for stability. Inflammation is a medical term that describes redness and swelling which causes pain and, when in the joints, can also cause stiffness. Arthritis is a chronic condition that restricts mobility and diminishes quality of life.
Arthritis can involve almost any part of the body, most often affecting the hip, knee, spine or other weight-bearing joints, but is also found in the fingers and other non-weight-bearing joints. Some forms of arthritis can also affect other parts of the body.
Inflammatory and noninflammatory arthritis are the two most common forms of the condition. One of the most common types of inflammatory arthritis is rheumatoid arthritis (RA), and the most common type of noninflammatory arthritis is known as osteoarthritis (OA).
Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune and inflammatory disease, which means that your immune system attacks healthy cells in your body by mistake, causing inflammation in the affected parts of the body. RA commonly affects joints in the hands, wrists, and knees. The lining of the joint becomes inflamed, causing damage to joint tissue. This tissue damage can cause long-lasting or chronic pain, unsteadiness (lack of balance), and deformity (misshapenness). RA is a systemic disease, so its symptoms can also include weakness and fatigue. RA can also affect other tissues throughout the body and cause problems in organs such as the lungs, heart, and eyes.
Osteoarthritis (OA) occurs when the protective cartilage that cushions the ends of your bones wears down over time. Although osteoarthritis can damage any joint, the disorder most commonly affects joints in your hands, knees, hips and spine. Even though it’s called noninflammatory arthritis, OA can still result in some inflammation of the joints. Injuring a joint can accelerate the progression of OA, but even everyday activities can contribute to OA later in life. Being overweight and putting extra strain on the joints can also cause OA.
There is no single preventative measure for arthritis, but you can take steps to preserve joint function and mobility, and improve your overall quality of life.
Maintain a Healthy Weight
Excess weight puts greater demand on your joints. Combine healthy eating with regular exercise to maintain a healthy weight.
Many people have diabetes and OA. Having high glucose levels can make cartilage stiffer and more likely to break down. Having diabetes causes inflammation, which also weakens cartilage. Research suggests that eating a balanced diet may help you manage arthritis symptoms. Maximize nutrients and minimize extra calories by choosing nutrient-rich foods like whole grains, fruits, vegetables, lean protein and lower-fat dairy products.
Choose a Healthy Lifestyle
Not smoking, drinking in moderation and getting good sleep will help you to feel your best. Cigarette smoking increases a person’s risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and can make the disease worse.
Exercise – What to Do, What to Avoid
Choose activities that build the muscles around your joints but don't damage the joints themselves. Focus on stretching, range-of-motion exercises and gradual progressive strength training. Include low-impact aerobic exercise, such as Tai Chi, walking, cycling or water exercises. Make sure to warm up and cool down when doing exercise.
Try to avoid activities that involve high impact and repetitive motion, such as running, jumping, racket sports, and high-impact aerobics. If you do partake in these sports, however, consider wearing protective equipment such as elbow and knee pads.
Maintain Range of Motion
Make a habit of putting your joints through their full range of motion, but only up to the point where it doesn’t cause more pain. Gentle stretching, raising and lowering legs from a standing or seated position, daily walks and hobbies such as gardening can help. But listen to your body and never push too hard.
Use your largest, strongest joints for lifting, pushing, pulling and carrying. Watch your step to prevent falls. Balance rest and activity throughout the day.
It's no surprise that arthritis pain has a negative effect on your mood. If everyday activities make you hurt, you're bound to feel discouraged. Avoid focusing on the pain (which could lead to depression). Find ways to reduce or avoid stress through meditation, yoga, deep breathing, listening to music, being in nature, writing a journal, connecting with friends and family – do whatever helps you relax.
Heat and cold. Use of heat, such as applying heating pads to aching joints, taking hot baths or showers, or immersing painful joints in warm paraffin wax, can help relieve pain temporarily. Be careful not to burn yourself. Use heating pads for no more than 20 minutes at a time.
Seek Medical Help
Talk to your doctor if you have joint pain and other arthritis symptoms. It’s important to get an accurate diagnosis as soon as possible so you can start treatment and work to minimize symptoms and prevent the disease from getting worse.