Painful Arthritis? Get Active Again

Is the creaking of your knees loud enough to wake the neighbors? Can you predict the weather by the throbbing in your hip? If your joints make you feel like the Tin Man, you may be one of the more than 50 million arthritis sufferers in America.  

On Wednesday June 20, Harbin Clinic partnered with the Rome Women’s Information Network to present Kick Pain in the Kitchen as well as the Medicine Cabinet, an arthritis workshop aimed at teaching women and men how to fight symptoms of the disease with diet and exercise.

Oh, My Aching Joints!

Arthritis, the number one cause of disability in the United States, is an inflammation of the joints. There are several types, each with unique causes and symptoms.

Osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis, is caused by wear and tear on the cartilage of the joints. Cartilage is a rubbery tissue that covers the ends of bones and allows joints to move smoothly. As this tissue breaks down, the joints become painful, stiff and lose mobility.

Less common forms of arthritis are rheumatoid arthritis and gout. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease in which the body attacks the tissues of the joints. Gout is caused by the build-up of sand-like uric acid crystals that can settle in the joints.

Each type of arthritis is different, and may require different treatments. However, there are steps that you can take to prevent or improve the symptoms of arthritis.

Spare the Scalpel

According to Harbin Clinic orthopaedic surgeon Dr. Brad Bushnell, joint replacement surgery should be a last resort, not a quick fix for arthritis.

“My patients have to talk me into replacing their joints,” says Dr. Bushnell. “I want to try every other treatment option before we consider surgery. I firmly believe in the old adage ‘an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.’”

According to Dr. Bushnell a healthy body weight, a balanced diet and regular exercise are the first line of defense against arthritis. Obesity is one of the main causes of osteoarthritis. One pound of body weight puts four pounds of stress on the knees. Losing the love handles and shedding the spare tire through diet and exercise can significantly reduce pain and improve your joint functionality.

Some cases of arthritis have advanced to the point that medications are needed. Dr. Bushnell recommends glucosamine and chondroitin to keep joints healthy and help stop the progression of joint damage. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can help alleviate pain, but Dr. Bushnell warns against the use of opioid pain killers.

“If you’ve gotten to the point that you need heavy duty painkillers, it may be time for surgery,” says Dr. Bushnell. “Those powerful drugs are more dangerous to your health than joint replacement.”

However, pain does not mean that you need surgery. There are numerous interventional treatments that can help improve joint mobility and alleviate the symptoms of your arthritis. Corticosteroids and  joint injections are just a few of the options available before considering surgery.

Good Eats

The foods you eat can also play a role in treating arthritis. Harbin Clinic dietician Cala Dittmer recommends a plant-based anti-inflammatory diet to fight arthritis.

Dittmer says, “The typical American meal today is based around a meat with a small side portion of vegetables, if any at all. The ideal meal is the opposite—we want a plant-based meal with a small side of meat, if any at all.”

Red meats, bleached flours, refined sugar and vegetable oils are low in nutrients, high in calories and promote inflammation. These foods can exacerbate arthritis symptoms and contribute to your aches, pains and stiffness.

Fatty fish, whole grains and fruits and vegetables that are full of protein and fiber inhibit inflammation. A balanced diet of these healthy foods can help calm your arthritis symptoms and lead to an overall healthy lifestyle.

Get Moving

Healthy eating is essential, but diet alone won’t cure all your ailments.

Many people with arthritis avoid physical activity because of the pain in their joints. However, movement will help reduce pain and improve joint functionality. Experts recommend a weekly regimen of aerobic, resistance and flexibility exercises for those with arthritis.

When being active, listen to your body. Stay within a comfortable exertion level, and don’t push yourself to the point of pain. Go at the pace that is best for your body.

If you’re worried about safety while exercising, physical therapy or an exercise group such as Silver Sneakers are great options for guided and safe workouts.

If you have painful joints caused by arthritis, joint replacement surgery is not your only option. You can fight the disease and take back your health and mobility through diet, exercise and a healthy lifestyle. Harbin Clinic wants to help you care completely for your body.

For more information on arthritis and healthy living, visit the Harbin Clinic website, Facebook and Twitter.