What is arthritis?
Arthritis is a series of more than one hundred joint and connective tissue diseases characterized by an inflammation or pain of the joints. Inflammatory arthritis attacks the synovial membranes surrounding the lubricating fluid in the joints. The cartilage and tissues in and around the joints are destroyed. The body replaces this damaged tissue with scar tissue, causing the spaces between the joints to become narrow, and to fuse together. This can happen anywhere two bones meet, but usually arthritis is found in knees, back, elbows, fingers, or neck.
What are the most common forms of arthritis?
According to the Arthritis Foundation, the three most common diseases are:
• Osteoarthritis (OA): OA is a degenerative joint disease in which the cartilage that covers the ends of bones in the joint deteriorates, causing pain and loss of movement as bone begins to rub against bone. Risk factors for OA include a history of joint trauma, and age.
• Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA): RA is a systemic autoimmune disease in which the joint lining becomes irritated as part of the body’s immune system activity. It is one of the most severe and disabling types of arthritis, often causing pain, stiffness, and swelling in joints.
• Juvenile Arthritis (JA): This form of arthritis describes the inflammatory conditions that form in children under 17 years of age.
What are the symptoms of arthritis?
Symptoms of arthritis can vary from pain, and stiffness to deformity and permanent joint damage. Other symptoms include joint swelling, muscle pain, digestive problems, feeling extreme cold in extremities, sleep problems, increased frequency of infections, and extreme fatigue.
What can I do to help manage my pain from arthritis?
If you feel like your symptoms are getting worse, see your doctor. Treatments for arthritis have a huge range, including steroidal injections, meditation, trigger point injection, analgesics, NSAIDs, and acupuncture. If you do have a form of arthritis, there are some things you can do to help mitigate the pain at home.
• Wear the right shoes. Certain types of shoes put undue stress on knee, hip, and ankle joints. Patients that wear flexible shoes show a decrease in pain over a six month period.
• Exercise regularly. Studies show that patients with arthritis report a decrease in overall pain levels when they exercise several times per week. High-impact exercises should be avoided but more gentle exercises like bicycling, walking, or using an elliptical machine may help relieve pain.
• Use heat or cold packs. If you are trying to increase blood flow to an area (like a knee), putting some heat on the area can help. Use a heating pad, heat patch, or even a hot bath. Heat will help to relax muscles. If you are trying to relieve pain, try using an ice pack.
• Avoid certain foods. Some people claim that certain foods aggravate their arthritis. Try to avoid corn, wheat, eggs, coffee, mustard, sodas, eggplant, and/or peppers to see if you can get some relief.
• Check your medications. Sometimes, a side effect of certain medications is arthritis. If one of your medications is causing your arthritis, talk to your health care provider to see if you can change the medication or dosage.
• Add in certain supplements. Certain supplements may help to alleviate pain and symptoms of arthritis. These include MSM (methylsulfonylmethane), flaxseed, calcium, magnesium, and quercetin.
Astor, Stephen. Hidden Food Allergies. N.p.: Avery Group., n.d. Print.
Bland, Jeffrey. Your Health under Siege: Using Nutrition to Fight Back. Brattleboro, VT: S. Greene, 1981. Print.
Davidson, Paul. Are You Sure It's Arthritis?: A Guide to Soft-tissue Rheumatism. New York: Macmillan, 1985. Print.
"Understanding Arthritis." Pain. Arthritis Foundation. <http://www.arthritis.org/arthritis-facts/understanding-arthritis.php>.
Wigmore, Ann. Be Your Own Doctor; Let Living Food Be Your Medicine. New York: Hemisphere, 1975