Rheumatoid arthritis is a debilitating illness. As humans, we are meant to move. Yet, arthritis attacks the joints causing inflammation and pain around joints reducing mobility. The conundrum is that with sore and swollen joints, it hurts to move. Yet moving is the best way to reduce pain and slow the progression of the disease.
Understanding the cause of arthritis can help to understand how to reduce the symptoms and even the progression of the disease.
All autoimmune diseases are caused by chronic internal inflammation at the body’s cellular level. Internal inflammation is essentially our body’s way of fighting all the bad stuff we do to it. Unhealthy foods and drinks cause inflammation. Stress and toxins cause inflammation. Lack of sleep, lack of water and lack of exercise also inflammation.
With years of chronic inflammation, our body’s immune system starts to go haywire. It no longer knows what is healthy and not healthy. In the case of arthritis, it attacks the joints. The joints begin to swell and the tendons and ligaments tighten causing pain and lack of mobility.
Conventional Medical Therapy
Conventional medical therapy tends to focus on treating the symptoms of arthritis. Arthritis is usually treated with a combination of steroids and anti-inflammatory medications along with pain killers when necessary. Many people wonder what can be done along with medication to help improve mobility with their arthritis.
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In fact, there are many natural methods to help manage pain and improve mobility.
Here are seven steps you can take to help you manage daily arthritis symptoms and mobility issues.
Many arthritis patients notice that certain foods trigger arthritis symptoms. This makes sense because food can trigger inflammatory responses. In general, plant-based foods are healthier. Fresh fruits and vegetables are the best.
Sugar and alcohol frequently cause inflammation and remember that our body sees bread and flour like it’s sugar. Processed meats are the most inflammatory; red meats (beef and pork) are moderately inflammatory; and chicken, turkey and fish are the least inflammatory.
Lack of hydration causes inflammation in two ways. First, joints need lubrication. Without enough water in our system, our joints tighten and swell from lack of lubrication.
Second, water is how our body flushes out toxins. When toxins are stuck in our system, our immune system works overtime causing inflammation. You wouldn’t expect a toilet to work if there wasn’t water in the tank. Our body works the same way. Giving your body enough water along with gentle movement like walking and stretching will help detox your system and reduce inflammation.
Web M.D. recommends hydrotherapy as a form of exercise for those with arthritis. Hydrotherapy is similar to exercise and a pool. However, pool tends to be warmer than a traditional swimming pool. With hydrotherapy, participants can get all of the benefits of regular exercise without any of the impact on joints.
This may be especially beneficial to those with arthritis because the joints are particularly affected. Having an option for exercise that has zero impact on the joints can increase mobility as well as range of motion. Many times hydrotherapy is considered a form of physical therapy and may be covered by insurance.
4. Range of Motion Exercise
Many sufferers of arthritis keep the affected joints in a tightened position to alleviate pain. Unfortunately, this has the unintended side effect of increasing pain because it shortens ligaments and muscles around the affected joint. This means that instead of decreasing pain over the long-term keeping the joints in a tightened position will increase pain.
The Cleveland Clinic recommends all arthritis sufferers participate in range of motion exercises. The range of motion exercises typically includes stretching and extending the joints to their full ability. Some range of motion programs may include yoga or tai chi.
5. Lose Weight
Because arthritis causes pain and immobility many sufferers of arthritis have excess weight. The excess weight increases pressure and damage on the joints. The increased pressure and damage on the joints increases pain which causes decreased mobility. It becomes a never ending cycle of increased pain and decreased mobility.
Mayo Clinic recommends that if you have arthritis, you maintain a healthy body weight. If you’re currently overweight and have a difficult time moving a healthy body weight can be maintained through proper diet.
A meeting with a dietitian can help you start a healthy diet if you are not sure where to begin. The dietitian or nutritionist may also have ideas on foods that can help decrease inflammation in the body and reduce pain from your arthritis.
6. Hot and Cold Therapy
One of the benefits of hot and cold therapy is that it can be done at home. The second benefit to hot and cold therapy is that it is very inexpensive. Heating pads and ice packs are easy to have on hand and don’t cost a lot of money. Healthline suggests that arthritis sufferers try alternating hot and cold therapy to affected joints to decrease pain.
You may find that some days cold therapy works the best on your arthritic joints while other days a heating pad may be better. Having both on hand to use is going to be the best way to ensure that this therapy is effective at increasing your mobility and decreasing your pain.
The arthritis foundation notes that one of the most beneficial treatments for mobility in arthritis patients is massage. Massage can help increase range of motion simply by relieving tension on stiff muscles and ligaments that surround the arthritic joints.
The arthritis foundation says that the best types of massage for people with arthritis are either deep tissue massage or Swedish massage. If you are having a high amount of pain deep tissue massage may be difficult to tolerate because of how deep into the muscle massage therapist will go. Either way, massage therapy is an easily accessible treatment to help increase your range of motion when you have arthritis.
While arthritis will not go away no matter how well you take care of your body, you can manage your symptoms and stop the progression of the disease. If you combine medication with these holistic approaches to treatment, you are sure to have a happier and pain-free life.