Individuals can be predisposed to arthritic conditions if they exhibit one or multiple risk factors.
Some of these risk factors are beyond an individual’s control, such as sex and age. Some risk factors can be controlled, such as the level of physical activity and a person’s weight. Additional risk factors have been linked to arthritis and chronic pain, including broken bones, frequent texting over long periods of time, and a low index-to-ring-finger ratio.
There are measures you can take to minimize the effects of arthritis and chronic pain. Simple, everyday tasks can keep your bones and joints healthy, including:
- Low-impact activities
- Muscle-strengthening exercises
- Core exercises
Understanding Chronic Pain and Acute Pain
Acute and chronic pain can have different causes and require different courses of treatment. Acute pain is caused by a specific injury or disease, whereas chronic pain outlasts the initial cause of that pain. For example, if a person broke an arm and continued to experience pain long after the bone was healed, that would be identified as chronic pain.
Acute pain, by contrast, alerts the body to injury. The pain doesn’t last long beyond the cause of the pain itself, meaning that the pain should subside as the body heals.
If pain lasts longer than three months after sustaining an injury, it is recommended that you seek medical attention, since you may have a chronic pain condition.
Exercise and Pain Management
Before participating in physical activity, it’s best to consult a doctor to confirm that the exercise in question would be beneficial. One should then consult a physiotherapist to create an exercise plan.
Potential suggestions from physiotherapists may resemble these activities:
- Group exercise classes
- Playing non-contact sports with family
Arthritis commonly affects the joints within the hands in rheumatoid arthritis and juvenile arthritis. Those suffering from joint pain in the hands may wish to inquire with a doctor about these seven exercises.
- Making a fist
- Bending fingers
- Bending thumbs
- Making a circle with your fingers and thumb
- Bending fingers on a surface
- Lifting fingers on a surface
- Stretching wrists gently
Lower back pain can disrupt regular activity but often subsides within 6-8 weeks. However, there are some exercises that you can do on your own to alleviate minor pain during that time after consulting with a physician.
Those measures include:
- Applying ice and heat to the affected area
- Moderate levels of consistent activity
- Regular stretching
- Ergonomic chairs
- Supporting your back with a bed wedge
- Using a proper pillow
Risks & Prevention
There is no definitive cause for arthritis, however, people could be predisposed to arthritic conditions if they exhibit one or multiple risk factors
Some of these risk factors are beyond individual control, as gender and age are believed to contribute to the disease. Some risk factors can be controlled, such as low physical activity and a person’s weight. Additional risk factors have been linked to arthritis and chronic pain conditions as well, including broken bones, frequent texting over time, and a low index-to-ring-finger ratio.
There are measures you can take to keep your body strong and healthy, even as you age. Simple, everyday tasks can keep your bones and joints healthy, including:
- Low-impact activities
- Muscle-strengthening exercises
- Core exercises
Myth #1: You Cannot Exercise When Affected by Arthritis
Moderate exercise is safe, and research has shown that further injury is not likely if precautions are taken to avoid extreme activity.
- Strengthening muscles to improve joint support
- Weight management, reducing stress on joints
- Quality of life improvements
- Quality of sleep improvements
- Balance improvements
- Maintaining bone strength
People affected by arthritis can maintain a healthy amount of exercise with moderate levels of activity. Avoid strenuous activities. Engage in low-impact activities, such as walking and recreational swimming.
Individuals may need to adapt fitness regimes to their own needs and limitations. In that case, the following activities can mitigate the risk of triggering arthritis-related pain while staying active.
Health clubs often host classes specifically for those dealing with mobility issues, chronic pain, or arthritis, including spin classes, stretch and mobility classes, or light swimming classes.
Variations of traditional yoga (such as chair yoga) are considered to be more manageable for pain due to the assistance of a supporting object.
By helping clean or cook (without straining oneself), it is possible to remain active without having to visit a fitness club.
Exercising at Home
Consult with a doctor about trying these exercises at home:
- Leg raises
- Stretching hamstrings
- Leg stretches
- One-leg dips
Myth #2: Arthritis Only Affects the Elderly
Juvenile arthritis involves joint swelling and inflammation in children aged 16 and under. It’s an autoimmune disease that can often be difficult to diagnose due to the number of symptoms it shares with other diseases.
- Weight loss
- Joint stiffness
- Blurred vision
Approximately one in every 1,000 children is diagnosed with juvenile arthritis.
Rheumatoid arthritis usually begins in the 30 to 50 age groups, but can develop at any age.
Myth #3: Medication is the Only Way to Treat Arthritis and Chronic Pain
Medication is not the only option when it comes to coping with chronic pain.
- Hot and cold treatments
- Magnets (for osteoarthritis)
- Mind and body therapies
- Topical creams, gels or patches containing capsaicin (pepper)
Cold treatments, such as a cold compress or a cooling topical analgesic, can be used to alleviate pain from inflamed joints. Heating tense muscles through a warm compress and a hot shower can relax stiff muscles, improve range of motion, and increase blood flow.
Myth #4: You Can’t Prevent Arthritis
While there is not much we can do to prevent juvenile or rheumatoid arthritis, there are some actions you can take to prevent or delay the onset of osteoarthritis.
- Eating fish
- Managing body weight
- Avoiding injuries
- Protecting joints (e.g., using proper lifting techniques)
- Visiting a doctor for regular check-ups
Anti-inflammatory diets may also contribute toward minimizing joint pain.
Myth #5: Cracking Your Knuckles Causes Arthritis
Consistent evidence has not been found to suggest that cracking knuckles causes arthritis.
Pulling on fingers or knuckles to make them ‘crack’ creates a displacement of nitrogen gas within the joint, which generates a popping noise.
A majority of the research conducted on links between joint-cracking and arthritis has been inconclusive. The occasional crack of the neck is considered to be a normal occurrence. However, experiencing a frequent cracking or grinding sensation may warrant a consultation with a doctor if it continues over a certain length of time.
Myth #6: Dietary Choices do not Affect Your Symptoms
Certain foods may worsen symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, including:
- Red meat
- Sugar and refined flour
- Processed and fried foods
Replace them with foods such as these:
- Whole grains
- Fruits and vegetables
Unfortunately, there is no cure-all food that completely alleviates arthritic pain. However, some do help reduce inflammation.
Myth #7: Arthritis is a Single Disease
Arthritis is an umbrella term that can be used to describe over 100 different medical conditions, including osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, and gout – just to name a few.
The symptoms and the treatments for these various arthritic conditions vary. Consult with a doctor if you think you may have a form of arthritis. Do not attempt to treat a condition based on a self-diagnosis.
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Allina Health, Five Benefits of Chair Yoga: https://www.allinahealth.org/healthysetgo/singlearticle.aspx?id=36507248328
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