Arthritis; A Joint Statement

(Originally published in World of Westchase, July 2017)
The leading cause of disability, arthritis is often misunderstood.

The term arthritis actually encompasses over 100 different types of joint pain or joint disease. Many associate the elderly with arthritis, but it affects people regardless of age, race or gender.

Over 50 million adults suffer from arthritis. Surprisingly, 300,000 children suffer from arthritis also. In fact, July is Juvenile Arthritis Awareness month. Juvenile arthritis is an autoimmune disorder that causes the immune system to turn on the body instead of protecting it. There is no known cure. Examples of these types of autoimmune diseases include Juvenile Lupus, Fibromyalgia, Kawasaki Disease and scleroderma.
Adults suffer these autoimmune disorders as well. They can attack organs, eyes and muscles in addition to joints.

Most common among adults is osteoarthritis, a degenerative disease. In healthy joints the cartilage that covers the ends of bones allows for smooth motion and provides a cushion between the bones. When this cartilage breaks down, it causes swelling, pain and stiffening. As it gets worse, bone spurs can ensue and sometimes bits of the bone or cartilage break off and float around the joint, causing further debilitation.

Although aging is the most common factor, obesity, overuse, weak muscles and genetics can also lead to osteoarthritis. Hips and knees are joints that are often impacted but it can also develop in the neck, back, fingers and toes.

Along with working with your health care provider on proper medicinal treatment, suggestions for managing arthritis include:

• Weight management: Excessive weight puts additional stress on joints. For example, every pound exerts about four pounds of excessive pressure on your knees.
• Healthy eating: Certain foods can cause inflammation. When you have arthritis, your body already battles an inflammatory state. Fried foods, sugar, salt and processed foods can trigger inflammation.
• Avoid nicotine and excessive alcohol: Research suggests that tobacco and nicotine may cause joint pain. Alcohol consumption increases risk of gout and smokers are at greater risk for developing rheumatoid arthritis.
• Exercise: Proper exercise can strengthen bones and the muscles that support the bones.
• Rest: Maintaining a healthy balance between activity and rest is vital in managing arthritis.

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