Arthritis. It comes in more than 100 different forms and it affects more than 52 million Americans. The result is the same: pain and stiffness in the joints.

Arthritis comes by its name honestly—from the Greek 'arthron,' meaning 'joint,' and '-itis,' meaning 'inflammation.' The number affected by arthritis is expected to rise. How each individual type of arthritis starts depends on the type of arthritis that you have. The causes of arthritis are almost as numerous as the types, ranging from strenuous work, obesity, a genetic disposition or injury. For the purposes of this article, I will look at arthritis in a broad sense and show steps that can help alleviate pain in most cases.

Why does arthritis hurt

So why does arthritis cause pain and stiffness? Well, there are a few main reasons why this occurs. In the most common form of arthritis, Osteoarthritis, cartilage (which acts as a shock absorber) loses its elasticity. When that happens, the cartilage can become damaged more easily, putting more stress on the tendons and ligaments and thus stretching them out and causing pain. In Rheumatoid Arthritis, your synovial membrane is actually attacked by your own body, resulting in swelling and pain. These two most common forms of arthritis, as well as most of the other types, have a common problem: pain and swelling. So the million dollar question is how can we alleviate the pain and decrease the inflammation?

Before following any of my recommendations it is important that you check with your doctor, make sure that you have arthritis and talk to your doctor about my suggestions to make sure they are for you.

Take a look at your diet

I believe that that to alleviate some pain there are a couple things that need to be done.

First, take a look at your diet. Healthy eating is a very important part of any wellness program and it is even more important for people anti-inflammatory foodswho suffer from inflammation. There are a few different schools of thought about anti-inflammatory eating. I am most in line with nutritionist Monica Reinagel, who has studied nutrition as it relates to inflammation, and Dr. Andrew Weil, a pioneer in integrative medicine. Both believe that the keys to an anti-inflammatory diet are stabilizing blood sugar by eating low-glycemic-load meals, eating lean proteins with healthy fats, drinking plenty of water and having high quantities of fiber from fruits and vegetables.

Generally when people begin to eat like this they not only decrease the chronic inflammation but also typically lose body fat, which also helps ease the pain of arthritis. You can also add some “superfoods” into your diet that have strong anti-inflammatory properties. These include tart cherry juice, blueberries, ginger, turmeric and cinnamon among many others.

Physical activity helps reduce pain

The next piece of this pain-reducing puzzle is your activity. How active are you? If you are like me, if you are in pain, the last thing that you want to do is start exercising. That is actually the first and best thing to do. Tufts University completed a strength training program for people with moderate to severe knee arthritis and found that strength training decreased the pain stemming from arthritis by 43 percent! The Center for Disease Control recommends moderate physical activity five or more times per week to help reduce arthritis pain and stiffness.

Physical activity helps reduce the pain associated with arthritis for many different reasons. Immediately as you begin to exercise the movement alone helps to loosen up the stiffness. It also causes your body to release endorphins, which interact with receptors in your brain that reduce your perception of pain. As you continue exercising, your muscles grow stronger. The stronger your muscles become the more stress that they are able to take off of the joint itself. Let's not forget that exercising also helps to lose body fat which reduces the stress on the joints as well.

These steps can help

I wish these were magical steps that took away all pain for arthritis sufferers. Unfortunately they are not, but they can help and make life much more manageable and enjoyable. Approximately 20 percent of my clients admit to becoming completely pain free after 16 weeks of following these steps, 50 percent observe some pain reduction, while the remaining 20 percent observe no change in their pain but do feel better about their overall health.

 

 

References

 

CDC- Arthritis – Basics – FAQs, (2011) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved April 15, 2014, from http://www.cdc.gov/arthritis/basics/faqs.htm#12

 

CDC – Physical Activity – Arthritis Relief, (2011) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved April 15, 2014, from http://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/growingstronger/why/

 

Weil, Andrew, Anti-inflammatory Diet and Pyramid, Retrieved April 14, 2014, from

http://www.drweil.com/drw/u/ART02012/anti-inflammatory-diet

 

Medical News Today – What is Arthritis? - Arthritis/Rheumatology – Retrieved April 14, 2014, from http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/7621.php