Types of arthritis
Arthritis – inflamed joints – is caused by factors that range from genetics and joint injuries to age-related changes in the enzymes that protect your cartilage. The word is generally used to describe most musculoskeletal disorders.
Osteoarthritis is one of the most common forms of arthritis and is caused by wear and tear on the body. Constant use eventually causes damage to the cartilage within your joints and loss of the fluids that lubricate and cushion them. The symptoms usually develop gradually and include sore, stiff and deformed joints, and pain in the hips, spine, knees and fingers.
Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic condition that affects about one percent of the South African population, although there are no accurate prevalence figures for this country. A type of autoimmune disease, rheumatoid arthritis is caused by the immune system attacking the lining of your joints and other parts of the body. The symptoms range from pain and fatigue to swelling, stiffness and aches in the joints – especially of the hands and feet. Rheumatoid arthritis commonly begins affecting women between 25 and 50 years old, but it can affect men and women of any age.
10 ways to help ward off arthritis
Most articles on arthritis recommend drugs rather than natural treatments to ease pain and inflammation. The most common of the prescribed drugs inhibit an inflammatory chemical known as cyclooxygenase, thereby relieving the symptoms of inflammation and pain. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAIDs) drugs such as aspirin and ibuprofen work this way. But NSAIDs have side effects – for example, they deplete the very nutrients necessary for joint repair, including iron, folic acid and zinc.
But there’s no need for despair. Your older years are not destined to be dominated by joint deformity and an inability to move around smoothly. Take action now! Help protect your joints with these 10 simple lifestyle changes:
- Lose weight – Excess weight around your abdomen, hips, rear end and thighs places unnecessary pressure on your joints. With every step, your knees, ankles and hips take extra strain. Researchers in Australia have shown that losing just five kilograms can cut your risk of developing arthritis in the next 10 years by a joint-relieving 50 percent.
- Exercise for at least one hour every week – It’s not vigorous exercise in your youth that causes arthritis in later years, but injury to your joints. In fact, exercising increases muscle strength, which in turns helps to support both your bones and joints. In another Australian study, middle-aged or older women who exercised for at least 2.5 hours every week were shown to have a 40 percent lower chance of developing arthritic joints than their less active counterparts.
NOTE: There are many underlying conditions that can cause arthritis. Seek help from your healthcare practitioner to establish if and what kind of joint disease you have before embarking on any treatment or exercise plan.
Acknowledgements & Photo credits
A variety of medical articles and books were consulted while researching this article, including material compiled by US Dr Joseph Mercola.