According to the CDC, approximately 1 in 4 adults live with arthritis. It’s the most common chronic condition in the U.S., and unfortunately, we have yet to find a cure. However, while doctors can’t get rid of your arthritis, we can help you effectively manage the condition so you can enjoy your life to the fullest.
This is why we developed our seven dos and don’ts. No matter where you are in your arthritis journey, we hope these tips can help relieve your pain, slow the progression of the disease, and put you on a path toward a healthier, pain-free life. And while these tips should never replace an actual consultation with an arthritis specialist, they can give you a leg up on your symptoms.
1. Do learn more about arthritis
Despite what stereotypes people associate with arthritis, the condition can affect all types of people, not just older people or people who are genetically disposed to have it. While it is more common to have arthritis as you get older, children can get it, too.
Moreover, people who have no family history of arthritis can get it from an improperly healed injury. You can even develop it from an infection in which bacteria enter the joint and spur the development of arthritis.
Thus, you must understand what’s true as well as the symptoms and risk factors, including age, gender, weight, and work factors. It’s especially pertinent if you’re experiencing symptoms like joint pain and stiffness.
2. Don’t smoke and cause further stress on your tissues
If you smoke, chances are you already know it’s bad for your health. But did you know your vice can have negative effects on your arthritis? Besides being harmful to your joints, bones, and connective tissues, research shows it’s linked to the development of rheumatoid arthritis, especially for people who have smoked for 20-plus years.
Show your joints some love and quit smoking. They’ll thank you in the long run.
3. Do low-impact exercises that are easy on your joints
While it may seem counterintuitive to exercise when your joints hurt, regular movement in the form of exercise can actually help reduce arthritis pain and release the stiffness. This concept is so important that we have another article dedicated to exercises that benefit arthritis, including activities that can:
- Increase your range of motion
- Strengthen your muscles
- Increase your endurance
- Improve your balance
Common low-impact exercises include:
- Chair stands
- Dumbbell lifts
- Wall pushups
- Water aerobics
- Elliptical machine
If you’re looking for exercises specific to the knees, we’ve written about that, too.
Bottom line: We highly recommend you consider low-impact exercises such as squats, dumbbell lifts and stretches. However, before you start any of them, you should consult with a physician or a physical therapist to ensure the exercises you want to do will actually help instead of hurt.
4. Don’t do exercises that are high-impact and/or involve repetitive motion
We want to emphasize again: you should only be doing low-impact exercises. This means exactly what it says. They have a low impact on your joints.
High-impact exercises — things like running, jumping, skiing, gymnastics, and tennis — are when both feet leave the ground. These have a greater impact on your joints. Moreover, high-impact exercises are more likely to cause injury than their low-impact counterparts, which can severely worsen your arthritis if improperly treated.
Specific high-impact exercises to AVOID include:
- Jumping jacks
- Jumping rope
- Intense cardio dancing
5. Do manage your weight
Besides being crucial for your overall wellbeing, properly managing your weight can ease the severity of your arthritis symptoms. By maintaining a healthy weight, you can:
- Reduce the pressure on your joints
- Reduce inflammation
- Reduce pain
- Lower your cartilage degeneration
Although losing weight isn’t an easy task, especially if you have painful joint(s), it can be accomplished through a healthy diet and moderate, low-impact exercise (such as the ones we mentioned above).
6. Don’t eat foods that will trigger inflammation
Yes, the chemicals and ingredients in certain food products can trigger or reduce inflammation in our bodies. Foods and ingredients to avoid if you have arthritis include:
- Meat cooked at high temperatures (i.e. grilling, frying)
- Monosodium glutamate (MSG)
7. Do eat foods that are anti-inflammatory
Have you heard that foods like fish and turmeric have health benefits? You’d be right! Certain foods have chemicals in them proven to reduce the inflammation in our bodies, thus reducing the swelling and pain caused by arthritis. Our recommended foods include:
- Fish – rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which multiple studies have shown to reduce inflammation
- Nuts – contains high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, especially walnuts
- Ginger – known for its anti-inflammatory properties and high levels of antioxidants
- Turmeric – contains curcumin, a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent
- Green tea – multiple benefits, high in antioxidants, and can possibly reduce inflammation
- Extra-virgin olive oil – contains oleocanthal, a compound that prevents the production of pro-inflammatory COX-1 and COX-2 enzymes
- Cruciferous vegetables – options like broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, bok choy and cauliflower contain sulforaphane, which could slow the deterioration of joint cartilage
It may seem like there are a lot of “rules” when it comes to your arthritis, but we always like to remember that arthritis relief is a constant journey to find relief — not a destination. While some tips here such as “eat more nuts” might seem a little far-fetched, these small changes in your lifestyle will hopefully have you reaping big pain relief results down the line.
And isn’t relief from our arthritis pain all we really want at the end of the day?