Arthritis is the swelling and tenderness of one or more joints. The main symptoms being joint pain, swelling, stiffness and diminished range of motion in joints which can range from mild to severe. Severe arthritis can impact daily living due to chronic pain and limited movement. There are many different types of arthritis including osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis which we will be covering today.
Osteoarthritis (OA) is a degenerative joint condition that can affect the tissues of the joint resulting in bones becoming weaker, connective tissue deterioration and damage to the joint lining. This is the most common type of arthritis which mainly affects the weight-bearing joints like the hands, spine, hips and knees.
Prevalence of OA can increase with age, however effective prevention strategies can reduce development or manage symptoms. Staying active, maintaining a healthy weight and limiting high inflammation food (highly processed foods, sugar, red meat. Instead increase intake of berries, leafy greens, wild salmon, whole grains and olive oil).
With a diagnosis of mild to moderate OA or any joint pain and stiffness, it is recommended to participate in regular physical activity, hot and cold therapies and a healthy diet, along with any prescribed pain medications. In severe cases, a doctor may suggest surgical solutions.
Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is an immune disease where the immune system attacks the lining of the joints (the synovium - the tissue lining around a joint that produces fluid to help a joint move smoothly). This is more prevalent in the hands, knees and ankles and can severely impact daily living and quality of life. Women have shown to be at a higher chance of developing RA compared to men, and it usually develops in middle age.
Prevalence of developing RA increases with family history. Some researchers believe that RA is developed by having a certain gene that is activated by a trigger in the environment, such as a virus or physical or emotional stress.
Symptoms can include:
- Joint pain, tenderness, swelling, stiffness that lasts more than 6 weeks
- Morning stiffness that lasts 30 minutes +
- More than one joint affected (with small joints typically affected first and the same on both sides of the body)
These symptoms can come and go as a flare is developed, sometimes lasting a few days to a few months. Prevention strategies for RA include regular physical activity, healthy diet, hot and cold therapies, stress reduction techniques and supplements (curcumin/turmeric and omega-3).
Exercise for Arthritis
Participating in low impact and joint-friendly physical activity can help reduce pain severity, improve function, mood and quality of life.
Adults with arthritis should aim for 20 - 30 minutes of moderate-vigorous cardio daily activity which could include swimming, cycling, walking.
Also aiming for activity that will strengthen the muscles ideally 2 days per week, this could include lifting weights or resistance bands.
Maintaining flexibility and balance with stretching, yoga or balancing on one foot can improve range of motion and reduce risk of falls.
What to do next
1. Understanding arthritis can help you manage it better and feel healthier. Book an appointment with your doctor to learn about your condition specifically.
2. Utilise resources to inform yourself of your condition and how to best manage your environment