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Everything you need to know about arthritis

Arthritis is the inflammation in one or more joints, resulting in pain, stiffness, swelling, and decreased range of motion. There are over 100 different types of arthritis, with the most common being osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Osteoarthritis occurs due to wear and tear on the joints over time, while rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder where the immune system mistakenly attacks the joints. Arthritis can affect people of all ages, genders, and backgrounds, so it’s important to understand this condition and how to ensure proper joint health.

Arthritis symptoms

  • Joint pain

  • Stiffness

  • Swelling

  • Redness and warmth

  • Decreased range of motion

  • Fatigue

  • Weakness

  • Joint deformities

  • Fever

  • Numbness or tingling

 

What causes arthritis?

The causes of arthritis can vary depending on the type of arthritis. Here are some common factors that can contribute to the development of arthritis:

  • Some forms of arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis, have a genetic component, meaning they can run in families.

  • Osteoarthritis, the most common type of arthritis, often develops as a result of wear and tear on the joints over time. It becomes more prevalent with advancing age.

  • Previous joint injuries, such as fractures or ligament tears, can increase the risk of developing arthritis in the affected joints.

  • Repetitive movements or activities that put stress on the joints, such as certain occupations or sports, can lead to arthritis over time.

  • Being overweight or obese can increase the risk of developing arthritis, especially in weight-bearing joints like the knees and hips, due to the added strain on the joints.

  • Infections caused by bacteria or viruses can sometimes trigger inflammatory forms of arthritis, such as reactive arthritis or septic arthritis.

  • Conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and lupus are autoimmune disorders where the immune system mistakenly attacks the body's own tissues, including the joints.

  • Certain metabolic conditions, such as gout, can lead to arthritis by causing the accumulation of uric acid crystals in the joints.

  • Exposure to environmental factors like smoking, pollution, and certain toxins may increase the risk of developing certain types of arthritis.

  • Hormonal changes, such as those occurring during menopause, can influence the development of arthritis, particularly rheumatoid arthritis, which is more common in women.

 

Arthritis prevention tips

While not all forms of arthritis can be prevented, there are steps individuals can take to reduce their risk of developing certain types of arthritis and to minimize the impact of arthritis on their joints. Here are some preventive measures:

  • Maintain a healthy weight through a balanced diet and regular exercise

  • Stay active with a mix of aerobic exercise and strength training

  • Practice joint protection techniques and use ergonomic tools

  • Avoid joint overuse by taking regular breaks during activities that involve repetitive motions

  • Wear supportive footwear that fits well and provides adequate cushioning

  • Quit smoking

  • Stay hydrated to maintain proper joint lubrication and cushioning

  • Practice stress-reduction techniques such as meditation or deep breathing exercises

  • Schedule regular check-ups with your St. Joseph Health orthopedist

 

Diet for healthy joints

An optimal joint health diet focuses on incorporating foods that are rich in nutrients known to support joint health and reduce inflammation. Here's a description of such a diet:

  • Fatty fish: Include oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, and sardines in your diet regularly. These fish are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which have anti-inflammatory properties and can help reduce joint pain and stiffness.

  • Leafy greens: Consume plenty of leafy green vegetables like spinach, kale, and broccoli. They are rich in antioxidants such as vitamins C and E, which help protect the joints from damage caused by free radicals.

  • Berries: Incorporate a variety of berries such as strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries into your diet. Berries are packed with antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds that can help reduce inflammation and improve joint function.

  • Nuts and seeds: Snack on nuts and seeds like almonds, walnuts, and flaxseeds, which are high in omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants. They can help reduce inflammation and support overall joint health.

  • Whole grains: Choose whole grains such as brown rice, quinoa, and oats over refined grains. Whole grains are rich in fiber and nutrients like magnesium and selenium, which have anti-inflammatory properties and can help reduce joint pain.

  • Lean proteins: Opt for lean sources of protein such as poultry, tofu, and beans. Protein is essential for maintaining muscle mass and supporting joint function, but excessive consumption of red meat may contribute to inflammation, so it's best to limit intake.

  • Healthy fats: Incorporate healthy fats like olive oil, avocado, and nuts into your diet. These fats are rich in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, which have anti-inflammatory properties and can help reduce joint pain and stiffness.

  • Spices and herbs: Use herbs and spices like turmeric, ginger, and garlic in your cooking. These ingredients have potent anti-inflammatory properties and can help alleviate joint pain and inflammation.

  • Calcium-rich foods: Include calcium-rich foods such as dairy products, fortified plant-based milk, and leafy greens in your diet to support bone health and prevent osteoporosis, which can exacerbate joint issues.

 

Overall, a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, healthy fats, and whole grains can support joint health and reduce inflammation, promoting overall well-being and mobility.

How do you treat arthritis?

Treatment for arthritis aims to manage symptoms, improve joint function, and enhance quality of life. The specific approach to treatment can vary depending on the type and severity of arthritis, but common strategies include:

  • Medications

  • Physical therapy

  • Lifestyle modifications, such as maintaining a healthy weight, engaging in regular exercise, and practicing proper joint protection techniques

  • Assistive devices, such as splints, braces, or orthotic shoe inserts

  • Heat and cold therapy

  • Joint injections

  • Surgery to repair or replace damaged joints

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