Arthritis is the leading cause of disability in the United States. It affects more than 50 million adults and 300,000 children and can cause symptoms including swelling, pain, stiffness in the joints as well as trouble moving. It’s not a single disease, rather, it’s a “collection of more than 100 different types of arthritis and related conditions,” according to the Arthritis Foundation.
With so many people suffering from arthritis, we have learned a lot about it over the years. While there’s no cure, there are a host of ways sufferers can lessen pain and discomfort and improve their overall quality of life.
Here are six tips for arthritis sufferers:
No matter what type of arthritis or how severe, patients can benefit from exercise. Experts say it’s crucial as it reduces joint pain, gives patients more energy and improves strength and flexibility. A recent study found that even 45 minutes of activity a week may be enough for older sufferers. It found that participants who did a minimum of 45 minutes of moderate activity a week were 80 percent more likely to improve than those who didn’t exercise.
A diet filled with anti-inflammatory foods may help reduce pain, swelling and stiffness. Among the best foods are Omega-3 rich fish such as salmon, soybeans (in the form of tofu or edamame), cherries, broccoli and low-fat dairy products. Processed, sugary and fried foods should be avoided.
Research shows that stress may not only make arthritis worse but it could even trigger the development of it. One study found that people with traumatic childhoods had twice the risk of rheumatic arthritis than those who reported trauma-free childhoods. Another study found arthritis patients who tend to worry more have more symptoms than those who don’t. While researchers don’t fully understand the role of stress in arthritis, there definitely appears to be a link, and reducing one’s stress level can only help. Techniques to reduce stress include getting appropriate amounts of sleep, exercise and meditation.
From warm water treatments to acupuncture and medications, there are a number of ways to manage arthritis pain. Not every method will work for every patient, and many will have to try a number of things before they find what works for them. One thing that won’t affect your pain, however, is the weather. Though long thought that cold or rainy weather makes arthritis pain worse, new research show that weather plays no part in arthritis pain.
Research has shown that some alternative therapies including acupuncture, yoga, massage and tai chi may help reduce arthritis symptoms. Other alternative therapies that are often used but haven’t been proven effective include chiropractic manipulation, dietary supplements and homeopathy.
Connecting with others who are experiencing similar issues can be comforting for suffers. There are many arthritis support groups across the country as well as online groups and communities that can help. The Arthritis Foundation offers a 24-hour helpline to answer questions from arthritis sufferers and caregivers as well.