Do you have chronic joint discomfort and pain? If so, it might be time to take it seriously.
Stiffness, bodily pain, loss of flexibility, or a grating sensation in your joints can all be difficult to live with. If you experience these symptoms on a regular basis, you may be suffering from degenerative joint disease, or osteoarthritis, and should make an appointment with your doctor to talk about it.
Osteoarthritis occurs when the cartilage between your bones that keeps joints lubricated becomes worn down, and friction develops, creating discomfort and pain. Over time as cartilage wears down, bones rub on each other and pain comes from the inflammation caused by this process While each case of osteoarthritis is unique and underlying factors vary from patient to patient, there are certain measures that can be taken to ease the pain, and reduce the likelihood of further deterioration.
The Risk Factors and Causes of Degenerative Joint Disease
Our joints are where two bones meet and are held together with ligaments. They’re critical in helping us maintain flexibility and allowing our bones to move comfortably. Lubricants including synovial fluid and hyaluronic acid allow our joints to move smoothly. Over time, our bones become weaker, cartilage wears away, and joints become less lubricated, which can make even mild movement extremely uncomfortable. The discomfort can reduce one’s ability to stay physically active, perform work duties, and enjoy all of the beauty life has to offer.
Degenerative joint disease can be due to many things, including:
- Older age – with age, bones weaken and natural joint lubricants decrease
- Obesity – carrying more weight puts a greater strain on joints
- Injuries – joint injuries are difficult to heal, and can evolve into joint disease over time
- Other diseases – diabetes, gout, or an underactive thyroid can all increase your likelihood for degenerative joint disease
- Sex – women are more likely to develop it
- Certain occupations that include repetitive stress on a certain joint
Ways to Treat and Cope with Degenerative Joint Disease
While there is no known cure for osteoarthritis, the objective of treatment is to reduce pain and enable patients to remain active. With an integrative treatment plan that combines directions from your doctor with healthy lifestyle choices, living with osteoarthritis does not have to be debilitating.
Pain Relievers and Salves
There are a number of medications you can take orally and topically, available to ease the pain of living with osteoarthritis.
Analgesics are drugs designed to relieve pain but do not fight inflammation. They include acetaminophen, opioids, and an atypical opioid called tramadol. The American College of Rheumatology recommends acetaminophen for the treatment of mild or moderate pain caused by osteoarthritis, and unless otherwise directed by your doctor you should not take more than 3000mg/day. Acetaminophen is by far the safest choice in comparison to alternatives for dealing with chronic pain, although use for extended periods can cause dependency and liver damage.
Opioids are sometimes another option. Opioids work by attaching to opioid receptors in central and peripheral nervous system, and various organs of the body. They are psychoactive chemicals and reduce the perception of pain and increase pain tolerance in the body. While opioids are extremely effective, they are well known for their high chance of dependency, and if pain is so severe that it requires opioid treatment, it may be time to discuss surgery with your doctor.
While medication can be taken to reduce pain, topical treatments are also available. These are salves or ointments that can be applied to the skin to reduce pain and relieve aches.
Talk with your doctor before taking anything to cope with the pain, as they can make the best suggestion for the most suitable way to deal with your personal condition.
Manage Your Weight
Being overweight puts an exceptional amount of strain, pressure, and stress on your knees and hips, which worsens your pain. By managing your weight, you ease symptoms and can potentially slow progression of joint disease. Losing weight will permit you to become more active, and to strengthen and enable joints to work with more ease.
Basic steps to promote weight loss:
- Increase intake of fruit, vegetables, and whole grains
- Reduce and eliminate sugar and processed foods
- Only drink water, black coffee, and tea – stay away from soda, sports drinks, energy drinks, and beverages like iced teas with added sugar
Make Movement Part of Your Daily Routine
Physical exercise strengthens muscles and supporting tendons around joints, helping to redistribute energy and weight placement, and providing the joint with more support. This eases the burden on joints and also stimulates blood flow, reducing inflammation and pain. Aquatic exercise and stretching are gentle ways to do this without adding excess strain to joints.
Strengthen Your Body and Reduce Inflammation with Your Diet
A diet rich in whole foods provides your body with the necessary nutrients to do maintenance and repair, to stimulate blood flow, heal muscles and tendons, and reduce inflammation and pain. It can be a powerful tool in managing and coping with joint pain, and strengthening your body’s natural healing powers.
An anti-inflammatory diet includes:
- Lots of brightly colored fruits including berries and citrus fruits high in antioxidants
- Whole grains including brown rice, quinoa, bulgur, and faro
- Organic vegetables
- Quality sources of natural healthy fats including avocados, walnuts, olive oil, salmon, almonds, hemp seeds, and flax seeds
- High fiber intake to increase elimination of harmful toxins and buildup
- Reduced intake of processed foods
- Low to no added sugars
- Absolutely no hydrogenated oil
- Reduce coffee to ease burden on your thyroid
This may seem like a big a change to your current eating habits, but just start by drinking more water, by eating fruit for breakfast, and gently steaming vegetables as a side dish for lunches and dinner. Eating an anti-inflammatory diet will quickly become more comfortable, and have a positive effect on your condition.
Stimulate Blood Flow with Massage
Massage therapists trained to work with people with osteoporosis can do a tremendous amount of good for your joints. Massage stimulates blood flow, so it can relax and ease the pain of areas suffering from osteoarthritis. Because areas in the body suffering from arthritis can be very sensitive, be sure to get a referral from your doctor to somebody trained in dealing with osteoarthritis.
By taking steps to actively monitor and manage your joint discomfort, and by discussing your options with your doctor, you can work towards living comfortably with osteoarthritis. Use the above information as a guideline to better understanding and managing your joint disease, and know that you have the ability to stabilize and live more comfortably with your condition.