There are several kinds of arthritis and each can be triggered by different sources. I would like to share some information about osteoarthritis, some of its symptoms and a few simple things you can do to help you get through the flare-ups and even reduce their frequency. The goal is to be as pain-free and active as possible for as long as possible, for ourselves and for our families.
Pain in the joints is usually the first sign that you have some type of arthritis. There are two kinds of pain that accompany osteoarthritis – the inside pain and the outside pain. The inside pain is what you feel coming from the joint itself and the muscles around the joint. The outside pain is felt when you touch the area with your hand.
With osteoarthritis the pain is accompanied by muscle weakness. You may find that there are things that you used to be able to do with no trouble that are now difficult or impossible. Opening the lid on a jar, drying or combing your hair or typing can be surprisingly harder to do during a flare-up.
Your joints will also be stiff, especially first thing in the morning. Be careful not to sit still for a long period of time, get up and move around whenever you have a chance. If you have a job that requires you to sit be sure to take an occasional break and take the long way to the restroom or to the coffee pot. At lunchtime walk as much as possible. Remember also that too much activity can make you sore and overtired so find the right balance for you.
There will be periods of extreme fatigue. Learn to pace yourself and prioritize. Some of the housecleaning or other chores may have to be divided into more than one session or delegated to another family member. Rest when you need to and don’t overdo. There should be a manageable balance between activity and rest. Take a look at your nighttime sleeping habits. Are you resting well after getting into bed? Are you allowing yourself enough hours for sufficient sleep?
Swelling in the joints is another problem caused by osteoarthritis. The swelling creates more pain and as the arthritis progresses, swelling combines with stiffness, limits your range of motion and can cause the loss of use of a joint.
Bone spurs may form between vertebrae and around affected joints and can cause numbness and pain Tingling in the hands and fingers may come and go for a period of time but if the spurs are left untreated you will eventually experience a constant loss of feeling in them.
Other more severe symptoms include joints changing their physical shape. Sometimes the inflammation and swelling in a joint will cause it to become deformed in its shape. You may also hear your joints make a popping sound when you bend down or stand up.
Ways to reduce your pain and improve your mobility
There are things you can do to manage your pain and retain your range of motion. The first thing is to assess the level of your pain. If you are experiencing a great deal of pain in a particular joint, try to let it rest for at least 12 hours. Alternate heat and cold to relieve the pain and reduce swelling.
Take a walk every day. Walking is one of the best and most beneficial forms of exercise there is! It helps you clear your mind and provides a gently, easy range of motion. Besides you never know what you may see on your walk: birds, squirrels, rabbits, the blue sky, clouds, a flock of geese flying over. Getting fresh air and enjoying the beauty of nature is good for body, mind and soul!
Watch your weight! Our joints support the weight of our bodies and the extra stress of standing up and sitting down, bending over, picking up and carrying heavy items intensifies the pressure they must handle. Keeping your body as fit and healthy as possible will help you to be able to move more easily and will keep your pain more manageable.
Be aware of your posture. Many of us sit slumped down in our chairs and don’t even realize it. Notice how you sit at your desk, at your computer or wherever you spend most of your time. If you need to, change chairs or add a firm cushion to your chair to help support your back and neck. If you do a lot of standing, make sure your shoes have a good arch support and that the heels are a comfortable height. Also try not to sit for too long at the time. Being in one position constantly causes your joints to become stiff and makes it more painful and difficult to move.
One of the most effective ways to help yourself in managing your osteoarthritis is to simply rest when you feel overtired. The chances of causing permanent damage are greater when you push yourself to do more than your body is able. At the same time keep in mind that extended inactivity will have the same effect. Alternate resting and light activity for best results.
Foods, vitamins and supplements
Some foods are helpful in producing chemicals known to fight inflammation and are beneficial to people suffering from osteoarthritis. At the top of the list is fish rich in Omega-3 fatty acid: salmon, tuna and sardines. Also good sources of Omega-3 are walnuts, pumpkin and flax seeds, eggs, almonds, canola oil, cod liver oil and grape seed oil.
Vitamin C works as an antioxidant to help strengthen the immune system, helps our bodies expel impurities and toxins and promotes healing. These Vitamin C rich vegetables should be added raw to your diet for best effect: broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, bell peppers, beets and alfalfa sprouts.
Fruit such as lemons, limes, strawberries, oranges, blueberries, apricots, apples, guavas, kiwi, papayas and tangerines are also high in vitamin C and are a good addition to your diet. Fruit juice should be limited because of its sugar content. The fiber in the raw fruit is sufficient to offset the sugar.
Vitamin D and calcium have long been recommended to strengthen bones and this is even more important for those who have osteoarthritis. Many dairy products are rich in Vitamin D such as milk, cheese, yogurt, cottage cheese and cream cheese.
Thyme, parsley, basil and cloves are recommended to season food and dark leafy greens (cooked) give additional much needed iron. Keeping your system strong is very important!
Herbal antioxidant teas recommended for osteoarthritis because of their anti-inflammatory benefits are ginger, black cohosh and feverfew. These teas can be purchased from a natural food store or one that sells natural herbs. Sipped while hot they provide comforting warmth while supplying your body with beneficial natural healing.
Be sure to drink lots of water to keep your body hydrated. Taking the time and making the effort to take care of your body will enable you to have a better quality of life to spend enjoying your family and friends.