Living with pain is something many people deal with on a day to day basis. One of the most common causes of joint pain is arthritis – either osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis.
Osteoarthritis occurs when the protective cartilage inside of the joint breaks down due to wear and tear, leading to pain and inflammation. Rheumatoid arthritis occurs when the body’s own immune system is overactive and starts to attack the lining of the joints. As this continues to happen, the inflammation causes wearing of the joint.
Around 10 million people have been diagnosed with arthritis in the UK. The symptoms of both types of arthritis are very similar (pain, stiffness, poor mobility and flexibility) and the root cause for both is down to inflammation.
According to the Harvard Medical School, inflammation is now linked to many modern day health conditions. Unfortunately, modern medicine focuses on treating the symptoms, not addressing the root cause of the issue.
So, what does science say the best preventative or remedial actions are for arthritis?
The right type of physical activity
While a sedentary lifestyle is becoming normal, the human body is designed to move.
I believe if you don’t use it, you lose it.
It may seem counterintuitive to exercise when it causes some pain. However, exercise has been scientifically proven to be beneficial for arthritis.
For example, if you move your body and move your joints this increases blood flow and nutrients to your joints, lubricating them with synovial fluid. This helps with healing the joint.
Take a logical approach and start slowly with some of the most effective types of exercise. In order not to put too much stress on your joints it is recommended to avoid intense activities such as jumping or repetitive movements like playing tennis. However, some of the best types of exercises to build up joint strength are;
Swimming is fantastic because it works all your muscle groups and strengthens the joints without putting much stress on them.
Low impact exercise
Walking or cycling are great low impact exercises for the joints. Also, a recent study concluded that it is likely yoga or pilates exercises are very beneficial exercises for arthritis.
Strength training is one of the best things you can do to strengthen muscles and maintain bone health. It’s not just for men or bodybuilders and you don’t have to go to the gym! Focus on compound movements such as squats and push-ups. See my guide here on some of the best bodyweight exercises.
Range of movement exercise
This involves doing exercises to increase your ability of taking a joint through a full range of motion. For example, raising your arms above your head, rolling your shoulders forwards and backwards or making a fist with your hand followed by stretching your fingers out. If practiced regularly, you should improve the range of motion.
The right nutrition
Berries and cherries
Nature’s richest source of flavonoids which contain incredible anti inflammatory properties, berries and cherries should be consumed regularly. Also, a recent study showed that cranberry juice can decrease rheumatoid arthritis in women.
Tea, especially green tea
A compound called epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) found in green tea has been shown to reduce swelling related to arthritis.
A meta analysis of the effects of turmeric showed that while they couldn’t draw definitive conclusions, the active compound curcumin can benefit people with arthritis. Take either turmeric with black pepper to increase absorption.
Florida University researchers found that women who ate prunes on a daily basis had significant improvements in the pain they were experiencing form arthritis. This may be down to the trace element boron and the high amounts of potassium and magnesium which, contrary to popular belief, are just as if not more important for bone health than calcium.
Move more, drink tea and eat your berries
Inflammation is the root cause of arthritis and movement and nutrition is key to combating it.
Don’t let the pain stop you exercising. That doesn’t mean you need to go full throttle and work through severe pain. Any movement helps and the key is to start slowly and combine low impact movement with some resistance training/range of movement exercises.
An anti-inflammatory diet is also as important as exercise with some of the best foods to consume being berries, dried fruit such as prunes and green tea.