May is National Arthritis Month
“Arthritis is a debilitating disease that profoundly impacts the lives of millions of Americans on a daily basis,” says John H. Klippel, M.D., president and CEO, Arthritis Foundation. “The effects of the 46 million Americans with arthritis on the economy are enormous; the direct and indirect medical costs of this disease are estimated to be $128 billion each year. With the aging of baby boomers, the prevalence of arthritis is expected to rise by 40 percent – that is up to 67 million people – by the year 2030.” No wonder then that this ailment has a whole month dedicated to raising awareness of its condition. If you already have arthritis you will be very aware of the symptoms but what causes it and once you have it, is there anything that can be done to alleviate the pain associated with it?
To understand arthritis you have to know how a joint works. Basically, a joint is where one bone moves on another bone. To prevent the bones rubbing against each other they are covered in cartilage and encapsulated. Within the capsule there is a fluid called synovial fluid that nourishes and lubricates the joint and the cartilage. The synovial fluid is produced by the synovium (synovial membrane) which lines the joint cavity. There are ligaments that hold the two bones together which work rather like elastic bands; as your muscles relax or contract they make the joint move. If you have arthritis it means that something has happened within the joint, and depending on which type of arthritis you have will be what exactly has happened. For instance, in osteoarthritis it is the cartilage that is damaged; in rheumatoid arthritis the synovial membrane is attacked; and in septic arthritis the synovial fluid is poisoned. There are strategies that you can employ to help manage your arthritis and to reduce the pain and we have listed them below:
Get Active: You may think that using your painful joints is not the answer but in actual fact, physical activity is highly recommended for people with arthritis. Studies have demostrated that moderate physical activity decreases the pain of arthritis, helps to improve the function of the joints and delays the onset of disability. To benefit you should aim for 30 minutes of moderate physical activity on at least 5 days each week to achieve the recommended 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week. Even if this is not possible, exercising for a short a peroid of time as 10-minutes can provide health benefits. You should see your doctor who may be able to get you enrolled in a special arthritis exercise programme.
Maintain a Healthy Weight: keeping your weight under control is one of the best things you can do to help yourself if you suffer from arthritis. Approximately 66% of adults who have been diagnosed by a doctor with arthritis are overweight or obese. Studies have suggested that by maintaining a healthy weight you can reduce the risk of developing arthritis and can also decrease the chance of the disease progressing. It has been shown that by just a loss of 11 pounds, for people who are overweight, can decrease the occurrence of new knee osteoarthritis and even a modest weight loss of just 5% can help reduce pain and disability.
Protect Your Joints Now: If you are a sporty type of person it makes perfect sense to protect your joints now as joint injury can lead to osteoarthritis. You may not know it but people who engage in sports or who have occupational injuries or who take part in jobs that have repetitive motions, such as repeated knee bending, have more osteoarthritis. So avoid joint injury and you may reduce your risk of developing osteoarthritis.
See Your Doctor: At present there is not a cure for most types of arthritis, however, early diagnosis can mean the difference between living a life of pain or managing to stop the onset. And if caught early enough, the fast and speedy use of disease-modifying drugs can change the course of rheumatoid arthritis. So if you suspect that you have symptoms of arthritis, including pain, aching, stiffness, and swelling in or around the joints, then go and see your doctor and begin appropriate management of your condition.