May is Arthritis Awareness Month, and it’s a great time to refresh your knowledge about this common condition and the available treatment options. Over 24% of adults in the U.S. have arthritis, and that number skyrockets to nearly 50% for adults over 65.
Here are five facts you should know about this painful but treatable condition.
1. There’s More Than One Type of Arthritis
There are over one hundred types of arthritis and related conditions. The most common types are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Kids can also have arthritis. Juvenile arthritis affects over 300,000 children in America. Arthritis in children may have more than one cause, but an autoimmune problem is suspected in many cases. Autoimmunity also causes rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, and arthritic symptoms in lupus patients.
All types of arthritis cause joint pain, stiffness, and swelling, but autoimmune types may also cause fever, swollen lymph nodes, or symptoms involving other organ systems. The exact cause of many autoimmune type arthritic conditions is not fully known; genetic as well as lifestyle factors probably play a role. While scientists have yet to find a particular gene for most types of arthritis, they do know that spondyloarthropathies are linked to the HLA-B27 gene.
Osteoarthritis is also called degenerative arthritis. Unlike the other types we’ve mentioned, it’s not caused by autoimmunity. Osteoarthritis results from wear and tear on joints that causes cartilage degeneration and inflammation. Osteoarthritis is more common after forty, but it’s not an unavoidable part of aging. Your genes may make you more susceptible, but factors like obesity, acute injuries, and joint overuse put you at higher risk.
2. Arthritis May Be Preventable
Since autoimmune diseases cause many forms of arthritis, keeping your immune system healthy may prevent arthritis in some people. An unhealthy inflammatory response instigates autoimmune conditions and other serious illnesses like cancer. Genes may play a role in this, but diet can also influence it. A diet high in antioxidant-rich fruits, vegetables, and Omega-3 fats can keep inflammation from running rampant. A healthy gut plays a key role in immune response. Studies indicate that eating foods containing probiotics like yogurt, kefir, and kimchi, can improve gut health and immunity.
Implementing these diet tips, managing your stress, exercising, and avoiding toxins like those found in cigarettes are all things you can do to minimize your chances of developing an autoimmune disease.
Osteoarthritis may also be preventable by managing risk factors like weight and diet. Being overweight increases the wear and tear on your joints, putting your knees and hips at a greater risk for osteoarthritis. Smoking and diets low in omega-3 fats may also be risk factors. Take care of your joints by eating a healthy diet, keeping your weight down, and exercising regularly. Overusing your joints causes inflammation and cartilage degeneration, so try to change your habits at work or while participating in hobbies. Wearing supportive wraps or gloves can also help.
As people age, switching to low-impact cardio exercises like bicycling and swimming can take some strain off of joints. You should still participate in strength-building exercises like weight lifting to support healthy bones and balance. When done correctly, weight lifting doesn’t worsen cartilage degeneration.
3. Arthritis Doesn’t Affect Only One Demographic
As we’ve already mentioned, both adults and children can have arthritis. Many people picture adults with arthritis as being elderly, but young adults can be affected as well. Rheumatoid arthritis is usually diagnosed in people between 25 and 45. Most types of arthritis are more common in women, but osteoarthritis, gout-related arthritis, and spondyloarthropathies are more common in men. All ethnic and social groups are at risk of arthritis. People with physically demanding jobs and those without access to healthy food may be at higher risk.
4. Arthritis is Treatable
Arthritis pain can be debilitating, but it is also treatable. Knee replacement surgery is common in older adults with advanced arthritis, and it typically results in complete relief from arthritis pain. As with most diseases, arthritis is more treatable when caught early. In the case of autoimmune arthritis, taking medication as directed by your doctor can slow or prevent further joint degeneration. Mild to moderate osteoarthritis can be treated with chiropractic care, cortisol injections, regenerative therapy, and at-home care. Many effective topical treatments are now available over the counter that can reduce your need for NSAIDs and other oral pain relievers.
Lifestyle and diet changes are good for treatment as well as prevention. Studies have found that increasing intake of Omega-3’s reduces pain in patients with osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Turmeric and ginger have also shown promise in clinical studies, and many patients find that taking high-quality turmeric or ginger supplements reduces their joint pain. It’s important to keep moving when you have arthritis to prevent stiffness and reduce pain and swelling. Swimming, water aerobics, and cycling are ideal exercises for people dealing with joint pain.
5. Accommodations Can Make Life Easier for Arthritis Patients
To prevent flare-ups, it’s important to adjust your home and work environments to accommodate your arthritis. People with arthritis in their hands often find it easier to work with larger, ergonomically designed pens, crochet hooks, or computer keyboards. Switching out things you often use for more arthritis-friendly models can allow you to continue your usual activities with less pain. Occupational therapists recommend that arthritis patients use their strongest joints whenever possible. For instance, push a door open with your shoulder if your elbow or hands hurt. Organize your home and office space so that things you use often are within easy reach. Labor-saving technologies like electric mixers and clothes that don’t need to be ironed reduce wear and tear on your joints and make household tasks quicker and easier.
With the right treatments and accommodations, people with arthritis can do most activities they want to do with less pain.
Arthritis Treatment in Kentucky
At All Star Chiropractic, we offer chiropractic care, massage, and regenerative therapy to our arthritis patients. Schedule a consultation today to find out how we can help you get back to the activities you enjoy.