Years ago, doctors hardly ever told rheumatoid arthritis patients to “go take a hike” or “go for a swim.” Arthritis was considered an inherent part of the aging process and a signal to a patient that it’s time to slow down. But that is not so anymore. Recent research and clinical findings show that there is much more to life for arthritis patients than the traditional recommendation of bed rest and drug therapy.
What Is Rheumatoid Arthritis?
The word “arthritis” means “joint inflammation” and is often used in reference to rheumatic diseases. Rheumatic diseases include more than 100 conditions, including gout, fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis, psoriatic arthritis, and many more. Rheumatoid arthritis is also a rheumatic disease, affecting about 1 percent of the U.S. population (about 2.1 million people). Although rheumatoid arthritis often begins in middle age and is more frequent in the older generation, it can also start at a young age.
Symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis:
- Rheumatoid arthritis causes pain, tenderness, swelling, stiffness, and loss of function in the affected joints.
- Fatigue, sometimes fever, and a general sense of not feeling well.
- Pain and stiffness lasts for more than 30 minutes after a long rest.
- The condition is symmetrical, i.e. if one hand is affected, the other one is, too.
- Most common areas are wrists and finger joints closest to the hand
- Neck, shoulder, elbow, hip, knee, ankle, and feet joints can also be affected.
- Mild or moderate arthritis have periods of worsening symptoms (flares) and periods of remissions, when the patient feels better.
- The disease can last for years and affect internal organs, not just the joints.
What is Osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis is a joint disease that mostly affects cartilage, which is the slippery tissue that covers the ends of bones in a joint. It allows bones to glide over each other as well as absorb shock of movement. In osteoarthritis, the top layer of cartilage breaks down and wears away, allowing bones under the cartilage to rub together. The rubbing causes pain, swelling, and loss of motion of the joint. Over time, the joint may lose its normal shape and bone spurs may grow on the edges of the joint. Bits of bone or cartilage can break off and float inside the joint space, which causes more pain and damage.
Symptoms of Osteoarthritis:
- Osteoarthritis causes joint pain after repetitive motion, with reduced range of motion.
- Common symptoms are swelling, stiffness, pain and creaking of the affected joints.
- Pain and stiffness of the joints can occur after long periods of inactivity, i.e. sitting in a theater and worsens later in the day.
Most common affected areas are knees, shoulders, hips and hands.
- In severe osteoarthritis, complete loss of the cartilage cushion causes friction between bones, causing pain even at rest or pain with limited motion.
It is common for patients to have this disease for years with intermittent pain.
Should Arthritis Patients Exercise?
Exercise is critical in successful arthritis management. It helps maintain healthy and strong muscles, joint mobility, flexibility, endurance, and helps control weight. Rest, on the other hand, helps to decrease active joint inflammation, pain, and fatigue. For best results, arthritis patients need a good balance between the two: more rest during the active phase of arthritis, i.e. pain & inflammation, and more exercise during remission phase.
The following exercises are most frequently recommended for patients with arthritis:
|Type of Exercise|
Frequency of Exercise
- Range-of-motion exercises, e.g. stretching and dance
- Help maintain normal joint movement and increase joint flexibility.
- Can be done daily and should be done at least every other day.
- Strengthening exercises, e.g. weight lifting
- Help improve muscle strength, which is important to support and protect joints affected by arthritis.
- Should be done every other day, unless pain and swelling are severe.
- Aerobic or endurance exercises, e.g. walking, bicycle riding, and swimming
- Help improve the cardiovascular system and muscle tone and control weight. Swimming is especially valuable because of its minimal risk of stress injuries and low impact on the body.
- Should be done for 20 to 30 minutes three times a week unless pain and swelling are severe.
Please consult your physician before starting any exercises.
Nutrition for Arthritis Patients:
Arthritis medications help suppress the immune system and slow the progression of the disease, however there is significant evidence that nutrition plays a role in controlling the inflammation, and possibly slowing the progression of arthritis. Supplements including fatty-acids such as eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), and gamma linolenic acid (GLA) help reduce joint pain & swelling, lessening reliance on corticosteroids.4, 5. Extracts of natural spices such as turmeric, ginger & garlic are also available as supplements, Foods to include in your diet:
Deep-sea & oily fish, such as salmon, tuna, herring, trout, mackerel, sardines, and halibut, are sources of EPA and DHA.
Turmeric contains curcuminoid extract, which has powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties which provides relief of joint inflammation and pain.
Other anti-inflammatory foods are apples, garlic, ginger & nettle leaf extract which are very beneficial in painful joints.
Veggies high in Vitamin A & C, i.e. brussel sprouts, broccoli, cabbage, spinach, kale, carrots, squash and sweet potatoes.
Fruits high in Vitamin C are kiwi, mango, cantaloupe melon, peaches, strawberries, blackberries, raspberries & black currants.
Pulses and Grains such as brown rice, lentils & chick peas are good for pain.
Nuts and Seeds high in Vitamin E & Omega fatty acids include almonds, brazil nuts, pumpkin and sunflower. Make sure you only use unsalted seeds and nuts and avoid dry roasted nuts.
Foods to Avoid:
Red meat i.e. beef, lamb, goat and pork
Nightshade veggies i.e. tomatoes, white potatoes, eggplants, red peppers and tobacco.
Dairy products or by-products such as cow’s milk, cheese, yogurt, butter & margarine.
Sugar and foods containing sugar such as chocolate, syrup and honey.
Beverages & foods containing, alcohol, tea, coffee, soft drinks & cocoa (caffeinated or decaffeinated).
Avoid wax covered fruits and citrus fruit. Organic fruits & veggies are encouraged.
- Flour and bran made from white wheat, cereal binders, fillers, protein, wheat starch or edible starch.
Other foods such as salt, pepper and vinegar may exasperate flare-ups.
A good arthritis diet does not need to be boring. Use your imagination in preparing foods to get variety in flavors and taste.
How can Chiropractors help?
If you suffer from Rheumatoid arthritis or Osteoarthritis, your doctor of chiropractic can help you plan an individualized exercise program that will:
- Help you restore the lost range of motion to your joints.
- Improve your flexibility and endurance.
- Increase your muscle tone and strength.
We can also give you nutrition and supplementation advice that can be helpful in managing and reducing joint inflammation. Feel free to call our office for more information about our nutritional supplements and customized plan specifically for your wellness needs.
Hot & Sweet Glazed Salmon
- 1 1/2 cups apricot nectar or jam
- 1/3 cup chopped dried apricots
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 2 tablespoons reduced sodium soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 (3/4 pound) salmon filet without skin
- Preheat your oven’s broiler, and grease a broiling pan.
- In a saucepan over medium heat, mix together the apricot nectar, dried apricots, honey, soy sauce, ginger, garlic, cinnamon and cayenne. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer for about 20 minutes, or until reduced by about half. Stir occasionally to prevent burning. Remove 1/4 cup of the glaze for basting, and set the remaining aside.
- Place the salmon filet on the greased broiling pan, and brush with glaze. Broil 3 inches from the heat for 8 to 12 minutes or until salmon flakes easily with a fork. Gently turn over once during cooking, and baste frequently during the last 4 minutes. Serve with remaining glaze.