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Tips for better living with arthritis

Belvedere arthritis care.jpg Arthritis is a disease that impacts more than 50 million Americans, making it the number one cause of disability in the country.

While arthritis may seem like an inevitable part of aging, treatment has come a long way in helping those with arthritis live more productive and pain-free lives. And there are things you can do every day to help yourself or a loved one fight the symptoms and effects of arthritis.

What is arthritis?

Arthritis is joint inflammation. It can affect just one joint, a group of joints, such as the knuckles in hands, or joints throughout the body.  
Common arthritis symptoms include swelling, pain, stiffness and decreased range of motion. Symptoms can be intermittent or constant, mild, moderate or severe and chronic pain that interferes with everyday living. Left undiagnosed and untreated, arthritis can cause permanent joint changes. Damage may be visible, such as knobby finger joints, but often the damage can only be seen on X-ray. Arthritis also affect other organs throughout the body including lungs, heart, kidneys and skin.

There are more than 100 different types of arthritis, with different causes and treatments. Here are a few of the most commonly seen types:

Degenerative Arthritis - Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis and is caused when the cartilage wears away causing bone-on-bone friction in joints. Over time, joints can lose strength and pain may become chronic. Risk factors include excess weight, family history, age and previous injury to the joint.

Inflammatory Arthritis -  When the immune system goes awry,  it can mistakenly attack joints with uncontrolled inflammation, potentially causing joint erosion and may damage internal organs, eyes and other parts of the body. Rheumatoid arthritis and psoriatic arthritis are examples of inflammatory arthritis. With autoimmune and inflammatory types of arthritis, early diagnosis and aggressive treatment is critical.

Infectious Arthritis - A bacterium, virus or fungus can enter the joint and trigger inflammation. Examples of organisms that can infect joints are salmonella and shigella (food poisoning or contamination), chlamydia and gonorrhea (sexually transmitted diseases) and hepatitis C (a blood-to-blood infection, often through shared needles or transfusions). Timely treatment with antibiotics may clear the joint infection, but sometimes the arthritis becomes chronic.

Metabolic Arthritis - In some people the uric acid builds up and forms needle-like crystals in the joint, resulting in sudden spikes of extreme joint pain, or a gout attack. Gout can come and go in episodes or, if uric acid levels aren’t reduced, it can become chronic, causing ongoing pain and disability.

What can I do to ease arthritis symptoms?

Once a specific type of arthritis has been diagnosed, medical care providers can advise a course of action to alleviate pain and improve joint mobility. Treatment may include medications, physical therapies or surgery.

Here are some things patients can do to help diminish the symptoms of arthritis:

  • Lose weight - Reducing the stress on your joints by losing weight will improve your mobility, decrease pain, and prevent future damage to your joints.
  • Get more exercise - Regular movement helps to maintain flexibility in your joints. Strengthening the muscles around the affected joints will add support. Try low-impact exercises such as water aerobics or swimming.
  • Hot and cold therapy - Long, warm showers or baths, electric blankets and heating pads can help ease stiffness and pain in arthritic joints. For joint pain and swelling, cold treatments can help decrease inflammation. 
  • Decrease stress – Lowering stress with meditation and relaxation techniques can reduce inflammation and thus swelling and pain drop. They can also relieve muscle tension that can exacerbate joint pain.
  • Include the right fatty acids in your diet - Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to reduce joint stiffness and pain.
  • Add turmeric to dishes – The spice turmeric contains an anti-inflammatory chemical called curcumin that can help reduce arthritis pain.
  • Get a massage - Regular massaging of arthritic joints can help reduce pain and stiffness and improve your range of motion. Your massage therapist should be experienced with working on people who have arthritis.
  • Herbal supplements - Some of the herbs that may help reduce arthritis pain include ginko, stinging nettle and bromelain. Always talk to your doctor before trying a new supplement to avoid side effects and dangerous drug interactions.
  • Use assistive devices – Taking weight and stress off arthritic joints will decrease pain and inflammation.
  • Take over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers or anti-inflammatory medicines if approved by your healthcare provider.
  • Avoid excessive repetitive movements.

If your senior loved one is suffering with arthritis, it’s important to make sure that their home is adapted to meet their needs. If arthritis is affecting their mobility, make sure they have the space they need to move around safely. Look for trip hazards and remove extra furnishings that impede easy movement. There are also many adaptive devices available to help seniors whose hands are affected by arthritis accomplish daily tasks.

If arthritis is causing you or a loved one to have mobility issues or to have difficulties with daily tasks, Belvedere home care can help. We are also able to help manage chronic illness and dietary needs that often accompany an arthritis diagnosis. For more information about our flexible, customized care plans, contact us at (518) 694-9400 Option 4 or info@belvedereservices.com.

Facts from The Arthritis Foundation:

  • Nearly 53 million adults have doctor-diagnosed arthritis; that number is expected to grow to 67 million by 2030.
  • Arthritis is the nation’s No. 1 cause of disability.
  • There are nearly 1 million hospitalizations each year due to arthritis.
  • 57% of adults with heart disease have arthritis.
  • 52% of adults with diabetes have arthritis.
  • 44% of adults with high blood pressure have arthritis.
  • 36% of adults who are obese have arthritis.
  • 1/3 of adults with arthritis age 45 and older have either anxiety or depression.
  • Arthritis and related conditions account for more than $156 billion annually in lost wages and medical expenses.