Best Ways to decrease the discomfort of Arthritis
Arthritis is a pain — literally.
Characterized most often by both pain and stiffness caused by inflammation in the joints, and encompassing a bunch of other pains and ailments, arthritis is one of the telltale signs of aging and perhaps one of the most annoying parts of growing older. That said, you don’t have to resign yourself to feeling awful all the time. While arthritis is a pain, you don’t have to let it control your entire life. There are a series of things you can do to ensure that arthritis may have you down, but it will never have you beat, even if you have a more complex condition.
WHAT IS ARTHRITIS?
Generally, arthritis isn’t a disease but rather a shorthand way of referring to one of a great many conditions that affect the body’s joints and cause pain. Overall, there are over one hundred different kinds of arthritis and related conditions.
The most common form of arthritis is osteoarthritis, which is the result of the gradual and unavoidable decline of the human body. When cartilage breaks down and wears away over time, bone ends up rubbing up against bone inside and around joints. This usually results in stiffness, swelling, and pain. While age is the most obvious factor that leads to osteoarthritis, other contributing factors can include being overweight and having a previous injury in or around a joint, like a torn or sprained ligament.
While osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis, there are other types that are decidedly worse, including rheumatoid arthritis and psoriatic arthritis, both of which are actually both autoimmune diseases.
Because there are many kind of arthritis, some are more difficult to treat than others. Conditions like rheumatoid arthritis are more complex than basic osteoarthritis and have much different treatment options.
That said, exercise can help with the pain, trials, and tribulation of all kinds of arthritis. If you are suffering from any kind of arthritis, one of the best things you can do is move your body because exercise, no matter what kind, helps. And while moving your joints when your joints hurts seems like the last thing you’d want to do, it’s a key way to reduce inflammation. Simple physical activities like walking and running help with pain caused by inflammation in the joints, but if you find that these activities are too difficult, you may want to start with lower-impact exercises like swimming. Because there is less weight supported by the joints while you are in the water, many arthritis sufferers prefer swimming and water aerobics to weight-bearing exercises.
Regardless of the avenues explored, increasing strength and flexibility is a good natural “solution” to the problems arthritis causes, as strengthening muscles around pain-causing joints reduces the burden the joints themselves have to carry every day.
Many people treat their pain with regular heat and cold therapy. Since pain and stiffness often strike in the morning, having a long, hot shower can go a long way towards soothing that ache. A heated blanket or heating pad can help alleviate those same pains at night, allowing you to sleep. Inflammation in the joints during the day can be calmed by icing affected areas. If no ice is available, try bags of frozen peas or corn!
Changing your diet can also help decrease the pain and discomfort of arthritis. Omega 3-rich foods like fish and spices like turmeric and ginger are thought to reduce inflammation, which reduces joint stiffness and/or pain.
Medications like non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are also useful to have around if you suffer from arthritis. Aspirin and ibuprofen are NSAIDs commonly used to manage pain.
For more complex arthritis and related conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, medications like NSAIDs aren’t going to do the trick. If you are dealing with an arthritis-related condition that, in reality, is an autoimmune disease, your doctor will most likely prescribe you something from a family of drugs called disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs, or DMARDs for short.
Autoimmune diseases create chaos in the body because they are instances of the body attacking itself. The body’s immune system is what keeps us healthy by fighting off infections and diseases, but for those suffering from autoimmune diseases, the body thinks its own cells are foreign. The resultant “friendly fire,” over time, causes significant damage to the body, its organs, and its various systems and processes. DMARDs work by going after the specific problem — overactivity — within the immune system. If a condition like rheumatoid arthritis is diagnosed, a doctor will likely prescribe a DMARD like methotrexate immediately to protect the body against irreversible damage to the various joints affected.