5 Surprising Facts About Arthritis

If you're one of the 40 million Americans who suffer from some form of arthritis, you know the devastating effect it can have on your day-to-day life. Arthritis not only affects your health; it can greatly diminish the overall quality of your life if pain and stiffness prevent you from participating in normal activities. Here's what you can do to improve your condition and help prevent it from getting worse.

Arthritis can develop in any joint in your body. Your feet, ankles, knees, hips, shoulders, elbows, hands, and fingers can all be affected, though not necessarily at the same time. Although the age group most affected by arthritis is 65+, more than one-third of all people with this crippling disease are between the ages of 45 and 64, and 17 percent are between 18 and 44. The condition in all its forms affects almost twice as many women as men. Overall, people with arthritis earn less money, are less financially secure, and are generally less healthy than people who don't have arthritis, according to the National Academy of an Aging Society.

The good new is: When it comes to managing arthritis, knowledge is power, and a lot is known about how to treat various forms of this debilitating condition. Here are the facts:

  • There are more than 100 types of arthritis. Although most people with arthritis have one of the two most common forms—osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis—many other conditions that affect the joints, ligaments, and tendons fall under the arthritis umbrella. These include gout, lupus, and arthritis caused by infection or psoriasis. Getting a specific diagnosis will help you get to the root of the problem and choose the most effective treatments.
  • Some foods can cause flare-ups. At times, milk, wheat, seafood, organ meats, and other foods have been implicated in arthritic discomfort. Though it doesn't apply in most cases, foods can aggravate certain types of arthritis, especially those caused by celiac disease or gout. If you think food is causing you to experience flare-ups, speak to your doctor before eliminating any group of foods from your diet.
  • Both hot and cold therapies provide relief. Heat therapy, such as a moist heating pad or paraffin wax treatment, causes blood to flow toward the joint and increases flexibility. Cold therapy, such as an ice pack or cooling spray, helps numb the pain and relieve inflammation. Alternate hot treatments for stiffness and cold treatments to relieve swelling.
  • Weight loss improves the condition. The more excess weight you carry, the more pressure you put on your joints to support your body. That's why, if you are overweight, losing weight is likely to result in less arthritis pain. With the approval of your doctor, incorporating both aerobic and strengthening exercises into your weight control plan can provide the double benefit of promoting weight loss and increasing your flexibility.
  • Alternative treatments can help. Studies have shown that ginger, valerian, glucosamine, chondroitin, and fish oil supplements can be beneficial for treating and delaying or preventing the progression of various forms of arthritis. Ask your doctor which supplements, if any, are right for you, or if you might benefit from other alternative treatments, such as acupuncture or meditation,.



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Martin, Rosemary H. "The Role of nutrition and Diet in Rheumatoid Arthritis." Proceedings of the Nutrition Society; 1998; 57:231-234 Web 8 Dec 2011


National Academy of An Aging Society: Arthritis Web 8 Dec 2011

University of Connecticut Health Center: Hand and Wrist Conditions and Treatments

University of Washington Depaertent of Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine: Diet and Arthritis Web 8 Dec 2011