Arthritis - the way it’s talked about these days, the joint condition seems to be an unescapable fate, like a burden we must carry once we enter into our golden years. However, that is simply not the case. Proper joint care and support can curb the worst of the condition, showing that it is very much possible for joints to remain flexible and mobile no matter how old you get. A deep awareness of the issue and smarter health choices can help keep you moving just as well as you did in your youth.
What is Arthritis?
Arthritis isn’t a single disease, but includes a wide scope of many that affects the joints. There are currently more than 100 types of arthritis that, despite popular belief, are not limited by age. Juvenile arthritis, for example, affects adolescents, showing that joint support is needed at all ages. Currently, arthritis is the leading cause of disability in the United States, with more than 50 million adults having the condition, ranging across not only age, but gender, ethnicity, and family health history.
Learning about the different types of arthritis can help you determine what you have if you’ve been feeling the aches lately. They include, but are not limited to:
- Degenerative arthritis: Also known as osteoarthritis, this is the most common type of the condition. This is when the cartilage surrounding the joints begins to wear away, leaving bone rubbing against bone which can cause pain and swelling.
- Inflammatory arthritis: When the immune system doesn’t act correctly, instead attacking the joints with unchecked inflammation. This can cause joint erosion as well as damage to any internal organs.
- Infectious arthritis: When harmful bacteria enters the joint and triggers inflammation. This can be contracted through food poisoning, blood transfusions, or contamination.
- Metabolic arthritis: Normally, uric acid helps break down certain compounds in foods and cells, and is flushed out regularly. Those with high levels of uric acid may not be able to get rid of it quickly enough, resulting in build-up that can form into sharp crystals in the joints. This can often lead to gout, which also sparks joint inflammation.
Where Does Arthritis Occur?
Arthritis focuses on the joints – which your body houses numerous types of.
- Neck and back: Any part of the back can be affected, though the lower part of the spine more so, as it bears most of the body’s weight. Numerous forms of arthritis affect it, such as reactive arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, spinal stenosis and more.
- Shoulders: Stiffness in the shoulders is a common symptom of arthritis, attracting forms such as osteoarthritis and gout, specifically.
- Hands, wrist and fingers: Numbness and inflammation can make it hard to bend the fingers or hold objects. Rheumatoid arthritis is one of the most common form for this area of the body, and is considered a chronic inflammatory disease. The body’s immune system attacks the thin membrane that lines the joints, leading to joint damage, swelling and discomfort.
- Feet, ankles and knees: Added stress from the body’s weight can exacerbate any existing arthritic conditions in feet, while the ankle is made up of complex moving parts susceptible to injury. Knees, being one of the largest joints in the body, must also be well-protected to avoid any complications.
- Hips: As part of the ball and socket joints, the hips move in all directions. Arthritis in this area can restrict movement, as well as possibly leading to fractures and discomfort.
What You Can Do About It
Contracting arthritis in your future is not inevitable. There are numerous ways you can keep your joints both flexible and comfortable.
- Early prevention: Learn to identify the warning signs of early arthritis before the condition worsens. Set up your annual health check-ups on time and be sure to ask your doctor any questions you may have. Be sure to report any symptoms you may be having, such as morning stiffness in the joints, minor joint swelling, a fever, and numbness around certain affected areas.
- Daily exercise: Besides hitting the gym, be sure to do specific exercises for your joints. Hand exercises such as making a fist, bending your fingers, and stretching your wrists can help strengthen the muscles supporting those joints. You can do similar exercises for your feet, knees, back and hips. Taking physical activities like a hike or just a walk around the block can do wonders for your joints. Losing weight also lessens the stress on the joints.
- Better diet: Your joints need nutrients to stay strong, and a colorful diet like fruits and veggies is the sure way to go. They are not only filled with fiber and vitamins, but also helpful antioxidants that target free-radicals that might otherwise damage your health. Try to limit your visits to the drive-thru, or at least get the healthier option on the menu. You can also opt for supplements that contain joint-specific nutrients to help.
- Rest: Giving your body some time to chill is just as important as getting a workout. A hot soak in a bath can soothe any aching muscles and joints, especially after some hard training. You can also enjoy a massage, which helps relieve any tension in the muscles, as well as fatigue.
Arthritis doesn’t have to control your life. With a healthy lifestyle and proactive stance on your joint issues, you can stay active without stiffness holding you back.