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Arthritis - A Primer

By Charles Hopkins Published 05/18/2006 | Health
Did you find it difficult to get moving this morning? Have you noticed that your joints are painful after a mild workout? Are you beginning to wonder if you have a bit of arthritis? And what should you do about it?

One of the first symptoms of arthritis is pain and stiffness- especially in the morning and after exercise. There are several different types of arthritis. In this article, the two most common types will be explained- osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

Osteoarthritis is the deterioration of the cartilage that protects the ends of bones. It can be caused by injury, but most often, it is due to wear and tear from ageing, diet and lifestyle. Osteoarthritis is sometimes called degenerative arthritis. The joints most commonly affected are the weight bearing joints, hips, knees and back. It also frequently occurs in the joints of the hand and knuckles. This type of arthritis rarely occurs before age 40, and affects nearly everyone over 60 years.

Rheumatoid arthritis is an inflammation disorder of the immune system. That means it is a 'self-attacking-self' disease. In this case, the body's immune system improperly identifies the synovial membrane as a foreign substance. As a result, the joint swells up, causing damage to the cartilage and tissues around the joint.

Rheumatoid arthritis can start at any age, including childhood. Onset can sometimes be traced to physical or emotional stress, poor nutrition, bacterial infections, or genetics.

To determine the presence of arthritis, a combination of medical tests are used. A blood test will indicate the probability of the presence of the disease. X-rays, MRI scans and bone scans are used to visualize the joints to check the severity and progression of arthritis.

Once a diagnosis is confirmed, a wide variety of treatment options are available to slow the progression and maintain mobility. Arthritis has been around since the beginning of time, and there is ongoing research being done to find a cure. The Arthritis Society funds and tracks ongoing research trials, as well as the latest breakthroughs on the medical front. They publish these latest finding on their website, as well as in their newsletter. If you have arthritis, you might want to research their website.

In addition to medications, physical therapy, whirlpool treatments, thermotherapy (moist heat), and joint exercises are used to increase mobility and prevent complications. Cold gel packs can relieve the pain of inflamed joints. A hot morning shower will often relieve morning stiffness.

Some foods naturally fight inflammation. Tart red cherries can relieve pain and inflammation. You will need to eat about 20 each day. Fresh pineapple is also excellent at reducing inflammation. You might want to consider adding asparagus, eggs, garlic and onions to your diet. These foods help your body repair and rebuild bone and cartilage. Other beneficial foods include leafy green vegetables, non-acidic fresh fruits, oatmeal, brown rice and fish.

Allergies can trigger inflammation, and aggravate arthritis symptoms. Many sufferers of neck and back pain have reported relief when they eliminated certain foods that they were allergic to.

Regular, moderate exercise, such as walking or swimming is important for reducing pain and slowing the deterioration of joints. Losing excess weight is also beneficial. When participating in any strenuous physical activity, it is important to incorporate frequent rest periods. This will allow you to keep your strength, without damaging your joints.

If you suspect that you might have arthritis, make an appointment with your doctor to find out for sure. The sooner you start taking care of your joints, the better.