According to the Arthritis Society, more than 6 million Canadians currently suffer from arthritis. That’s one in five people living with this complex disease -- for which there is no cure. This condition not only causes pain, but restricts mobility and can also impact one’s quality of life. Although arthritis is very common in the elderly, as many as 24,000 children also live with its debilitating effects.
Medication is one option for dealing with the immediate symptoms of joint pain. But lifestyle changes can be much more effective in managing arthritis long-term. That’s why it’s important to take a whole-body approach to treatment, instead of focusing on solutions that only target problem areas.
So let’s explore some of the ways in which you can care for your joints on a daily basis. Although these tips will not cure arthritis (again, there is no cure), they can certainly make living with its symptoms much more manageable.
Tip #1: Keep joints lubricated with a healthy diet
Helpful fats are essential for keeping your joints lubricated and moving smoothly. The fats you eat eventually become the fats that get stored in your cell membranes. These membrane fats are like the building blocks that either call for inflammation or fight inflammation in your body. That’s why it’s important to encapsulate our cells with the right kinds of fat. Avocados, salmon, nuts and seeds are excellent choices in maintaining ‘well-oiled’ joints.
It’s also crucial to look for foods that are high in omega-3s. This type of fatty acid is especially good at fighting inflammation. Sardines, walnuts and chia seeds can easily be incorporated into any diet to support joint health. Diets that are high in plants are also effective in managing arthritis pain.
Here are some other nutrients that support healthy bones and joints:
- Calcium: Yogurt, milk, broccoli, figs, kale
- Protein: Lean meats, seafood, soy, legumes
- Vitamin D: Cereals, soy milk, almond milk
If you’re still unsure how to go about making dietary changes, consider some nutritional counselling. An expert can help you create a customized menu that targets your symptoms. By working with a healthcare professional, you can ensure you’re getting the right vitamins and nutrients to combat arthritis.
Tip #2: Focus on muscle-strengthening exercises
You may not have realized this, but maintaining muscle strength is the key to healthy joints. That’s because muscles act like the body’s shock absorbers. They essentially protect the joints from everyday wear-and-tear. Exercises that focus on building muscle strength are crucial for treating arthritis. These workouts don’t have to be intense, either. Some light weight training is enough to increase joint flexibility. Squats, push-ups and bicep curls are good ways to incorporate muscle-strengthening into your workout routine.
If you’re 65 and older, this type of exercise is particularly important as you age. Knee joints are especially prone to damage. Activities like cycling and walking are incredibly helpful in maintaining your muscles, so they can protect your joints from premature damage.
Tip #3: Consider acupuncture
Millions of Westerners have embraced the healing powers of traditional Chinese medicine. Acupuncture is a popular method for treating arthritis. This effective therapy ignites the body’s self-healing process by stimulating various pressure points.
A series of fine needles are inserted into the skin for a specified amount of time. This prolonged stimulation allows the body to produce endorphins -- a feel-good chemical that alleviates pain. Regular acupuncture therapy can ease the discomfort associated with stiff joints and reduce inflammation. This ancient practice is also effective in promoting relaxation of both the body and mind.
Tip #4: Lose weight
The Arthritis Society states that a huge proportion of Canadians living with arthritis are overweight or obese. Many of them are physically inactive, adding unnecessary stress to their joints. Keeping your weight within a healthy range is one of the best things you can do to manage arthritis. Because your knees, hips and back must support the majority of your body weight, adding extra pounds can cause strain and premature damage.
Avoid excess wear-and-tear on your joints by losing weight. Regular exercise, a well-rounded diet and stress management are the best ways to keep the pounds off. An effective clinical conditioning program can help you reach your weight-loss goals. Working with a team of healthcare professionals can give you the guidance you need to make healthy lifestyle changes and they can also help you address issues specific to arthritis.
Tip #5: Address the emotional impact
Although arthritis affects our physiology, it can also have a profound impact on our emotional well-being. The pain associated with this complex disease can limit your ability to perform and enjoy some daily activities. But repeatedly slipping into a negative mindset can really inhibit your progress. Engage in therapies that encourage relaxation and mindfulness. Yoga, meditation or simply being in nature can help promote mental wellness. It’s also crucial to limit your alcohol intake as this can make you more prone to depression and anxiety. Alcohol can interact with certain medications and keep you from getting restorative sleep.
Despite the prevalence of arthritis, it is entirely possible to enjoy life while managing its painful symptoms. Before settling for prescription meds, consider making healthy lifestyle changes first. From nutritional counselling to massage therapy, a professional clinic like Physiomed can help you take a multidisciplinary approach to health and wellness. Our team of experts can help you understand why arthritis occurs and the best way to alleviate the discomfort -- so you can continue leading a happy and fulfilling life.
For more information on managing arthritis or to book an assessment, contact us here.