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How to Beat That Painful Arthritis

By Ernie Reynolds


Arthritis is a condition that affects the joints of the body. Wherever bones meet there is a joint, such as at the shoulders, elbows, hip, knees, fingers, etc. When these joints are well-lubricated and healthy there is no arthritis pain.

A protective layer of cartilage covers the ends of the bones and provides a smooth, slick surface that cushions and removes friction in  the joint where the bones rub together. A thin membrane called the synovium lines the joints and provides a fluid that lubricates and nourishes the cartilage and bones in the joint.

Arthritis can occur when this synovium becomes damaged or inflamed. If this happens, the lubricating fluid may not be present in the joint, and cartilage damage can take place. In osteoarthritis, the cartilage of the joints deteriorates and erodes until its cushioning effects are nonexistent. Eventually the joint is just bone rubbing on bone, which becomes very painful and crippling. Osteoarthritis happens over time and is a gradual effect, which is why older people are more affected by it.

Another form of arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, can also be caused by damage to the synovium. The synovium again stops providing the lubricating fluid to the joint. This causes the joints to become swollen, stiff, and painful.

While the cause of rheumatoid arthritis is not completely known, it is believed that the immune system of the body actually attacks certain tissues, with the synovium being one of them. Scar tissue can form in the joints, and in extreme case, the bones can actually fuse together.

Women make up almost 75% of the 2 million people with rheumatoid arthritis in the United States. This disease can start affecting people as early as their teenage years.


Exercise helps to minimize arthritis.

An exercise program consisting of a weight-bearing low-impact routine can greatly help to ward off arthritis pain. Stretching is another excellent way to stay flexible and maintain good joint health. Strong muscles assist the joints and prevent some degree of wear and tear.

If you are over age 50, it is especially important to do some type of exercise to keep the joints flexible and prevent the onset of arthritis. Many older people may think it is too late to begin exercising, but the sooner you start the better. This age is when the effects of arthritis begin to be felt the most, so this is when people should really work to stay as healthy as possible.

Some other ways to prevent and minimize arthritis include:

1. Lose that extra weight. The more you weigh, the more strain you put on your joints, especially your hips and knees. The pressure from this extra weight will more quickly erode the cartilage in the joints and cause pain all that much quicker. Studies have shown that losing weight is a clear advantage to delaying and preventing arthritis. In one study, overweight women who lost 11 pounds or more over a 10-year period decreased their risk of developing osteoarthritis of the knee by 50%.

2. Stretch those muscles. Stretching warms up the muscles and helps prevent muscle strain and tears when exercising. Stretch and hold for 15 to 20 seconds, then rest a short while and repeat. Even when you are not exercising, it's a good idea to stretch every day. This keeps the muscles loose and limber, and helps them to support the joints better.

3. Walking is one of the best exercises. If you are an older person, walking is a safe, healthy exercise that has great benefits for all systems of the body. Not only does it help keep the joints in shape, but it increases blood flow and energy levels.

So, to keep your joints free from the painful effects of arthritis as long as possible, follow the few tips just given. Lose the extra weight, stretch those muscles occasionally, and walk several times a week to keep those joints free from wear and tear. Exercising and taking care of your body now will prevent a bunch of pain later!

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Additional Information and webpage by Paul Susic MA Licensed Psychologist Ph.D. Candidate       

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