What Is Degenerative Joint Disease?
How Common Is Arthritis in Women?
Although OA and RA are very different diseases, yet they both occur more frequently in females than males—25.9% of women have arthritis as opposed to 18.3% of men. The exact reasons are unknown. Biology, genetic predisposition, environment and hormones are all thought to play a role in the development of arthritis
At What Age Do Women Get Arthritis?
While arthritis is thought to be a disease of older adults, it can actually strike women at any age. In fact, nearly three out of every five people with arthritis are under the age of 65.
What are the symptoms of Arthritis?
The symptoms of arthritis differ depending on the type, although they all share some common symptoms, including pain or tenderness in the joints, swelling in one or more joints, stiffness or difficulty using or moving a joint and sometimes warmth and redness in a joint.
In OA, symptoms usually develop slowly and worsen overtime. Joint pain, tenderness, stiffness and loss of flexibility are all hallmarks of the disease. However, while men are prone to get OA in their hips, women tend to experience the disease in their hands or knees.
In the early stages of RA, smaller joints, especially those in the hands and feet are usually affected first. As the disease progresses, symptoms often spread to the knees, ankles, elbows, hips and shoulders on both sides of the body and can vary in severity. Overtime, RA can cause joints to deform and shift out of place. Fatigue, fever and weight loss are also symptoms of the disease.
Can Arthritis Be Prevented?
While there are some risk factors that we can’t control, there are some strategies that we can use to reduce the risk of developing some of these diseases, especially osteoarthritis, and help you manage your symptoms once the disease develops. These tips can help:
- Maintain a healthy weight—carrying extra weight can raise the risk of developing OA because the additional weight places stress on the joints, which may cause cartilage in the unhealthy joint to break down faster. Researchers are beginning to realize that obesity can directly affect joints by weakening the ability of cartilage to maintain a healthy state. Just carrying ten extra pounds makes the knees bear 30 to 60 pounds of more weight with each step. Excess weight can result in more pain, regardless of the type of arthritis you have.
- Don’t smoke—Smoking has been associated with an increased risk of both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. It is thought to cause a faster breakdown of cartilage in the joints, contributing to OA onset and can also damage blood vessels, making pain and inflammation worse. Smoking also poses as a risk in RA, and can affect the drugs used in the treatment of RA.
- Wear protective gear during sporting activities and use ergonomic techniques at work - Any type of sport or occupation that requires repetitive joint action may lead to the development of osteoarthritis, so wearing protective gear while playing sports and following workplace ergonomic techniques can help reduce repetitive joint injuries and strains. Also, taking micro-breaks from repetitive activities while working can relieve joint stress.
Although currently there is no cure for arthritis, there are many steps you can take to improve your health, mobility, pain level and quality of life.
- Seek medical treatment early - If you are experiencing pain, stiffness or swelling in or around a joint for more than two weeks, make an appointment to see your doctor. If your doctor feels it necessary, he/she may refer you to see a rheumatologist who can make a specific diagnosis of the type of arthritis you have and prescribe effective treatment. Getting early treatment for your arthritis can often mean less joint damage and less pain. Depending on your type of arthritis, your doctor may recommend a combination of treatments that may include medication, weight management, regular exercise, heat and cold compresses, stress reduction techniques and methods to protect your joints from further damage.The primary goals of all degenerative tissue disease/osteoarthritis or arthritis treatments are to lower inflammation/swelling, control pain, improve mobility and joint function, help maintain a healthy weight so you put less pressure on fragile joints, and to improve your mood — so you are better able to handle the stress of battling a degenerative disease.
- Stay active While most people with arthritis usually have joint pain and some movement limitations, many find that they feel better and experience less symptoms overall when they keep moving. In fact, exercise is considered one of the most important treatments for degenerative joint disease. Like the old saying goes, “Move it or lose it.”Exercise is important for lowering inflammation, increasing flexibility, strengthening muscles boosting circulation and improving cardiovascular fitness and supporting a healthy body weight. There’s also the mental benefits of exercise. Getting regular exercise is a powerful way to lower stress, improve your mood, control stress hormones like cortisol and help you sleep better, and improves your health generally.
- Every person’s arthritis is different in terms of physical abilities and pain level, so the amount and type of exercise prescribed depends on each person’s specific condition.
- Some of the most beneficial, and least painful, types of exercise include walking, swimming and water aerobics. Water keeps the body buoyant, reducing stress on your hips, knees and spine, while building muscle strength and increasing range of motion. If exercise is painful at first or you’re just beginning to become more active, your doctor and/or manual therapist can recommend specific types of exercise that would be safest and most helpful. Start slowly and find ways to sneak more fitness into your day while you build up resilience and strength.
- set realistic goals,
- do something you enjoy and
- Do it regularly.
- Dietary help
Collagen is a type of fibrous protein that acts as the body’s natural “building blocks” for skin, tendons, bone and other connective tissues.
Some of the ways you can help the body hold on to precious cartilage and lower inflammation is to load up on all sorts of natural anti-inflammatory foods. These provide essential fatty acids, antioxidants, minerals and vitamins that support the immune system, lower pain, and help with healthy tissue and bone formation.
Focus your diet around these foods as much as possible:
- fresh vegetables (all kinds): Aim for variety and a minimum of four to five servings per day
- whole pieces of fruit three to four servings per day is a good amount for most people
- herbs, spices and teas: turmeric, ginger, basil, oregano, thyme, etc., plus green tea and organic coffee in moderation
- probiotic foods such as live yoghurt,
- Wild-caught fish, cage-free eggs and grass-fed/pasture-raised meat: higher in omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D than farm-raised varieties and are great sources of protein, healthy fats, and essential nutrients like zinc, selenium and B vitamins.
- Healthy fats: grass-fed butter, coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil, nuts/seeds
- Grains and legumes/beans: best when sprouted and 100 percent unrefined/whole
- Bone broth: contains collagen and helps maintain healthy joints
- Refined vegetable oils (like canola, corn and soybean oils, which are high in pro-inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids)
- Pasteurized dairy products (common allergens) and conventional meat, poultry and eggs, which contain added hormones, antibiotics and omega-6s that contribute to inflammation
- Refines carbohydrates and processed grain products and added sugars (found in the majority of packaged snacks, breads, condiments, canned items, cereals, etc.)
- Trans fats / hydrogenated fats (used in packaged/processed products and often to fry foods).
Are there any natural therapies that may be helpful?
There are a range of natural / non-medical treatments that might be helpful in managing arthritis are:
- Manual therapies for osteoarthritis such as osteopathy, physiotherapy can be helpful both for improving function and reducing muscle tightness and also for advice on exercises.
- Acupuncture can also be helpful for pain relief in particular for arthritis in the knee.
- Alexander technique lessons can also be helpful for help with posture and balance.
- Massage can also be helpful for those tight muscles
Some further helpful reading:
Arthritis Research: www.arthritisresearchuk.org/
Arthritis Care: www.arthritiscare.org.uk/
NHS Choices: www.nhs.uk/conditions/Arthritis/Pages/Introduction.aspx