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Arthritis Awareness Month: Reducing and Relieving its Symptoms

The month of May is a wonderful reminder that summer is on its way and that the nice weather is here to stay. For some people, that means getting outside to do some gardening, going on a bike ride, or maybe extra walks during the week. Nice weather tends to make us more active.

Unfortunately, for those who suffer from arthritis, bending down to tend to a plant or even gripping a gardening tool seems like a near impossible task. You can certainly forget about peddling a bike or going on those extra walks. Arthritis is a debilitating disease that can deter anyone from remaining active. Luckily, the month of May is not only a fresh reminder of the beautiful weather to come, but also that your arthritis does not have to control your life. This May, make sure you’re celebrating National Arthritis Awareness Month the right way! Find out how you can reduce and relieve your symptoms and remain moving in May and the many months to come.

Types of Arthritis

Before you begin to read about relief techniques from arthritis, it’s important to know the different types of it. Some forms of arthritis are more serious than others and may require prescription medicine or greater procedures to ease the pain. Other forms of arthritis can be soothed by more holistic approaches. As always, it’s important to talk to your primary physician to see what approach would work best for you.

Osteoarthritis (OA)
This form of arthritis involves the breakdown of your protective cartilage inside and around your joint. As a result, movement of the affected joint or joints becomes more difficult and painful. The purpose of cartilage is to add an extra layer of cushion for your bones. Without it, our bones would constantly rub against each, causing a great deal of pain. Unfortunately, this is what OA does to us. It prohibits the amount of movement that goes on within our joints, because it destroys the cartilage surrounding it. The intensity of OA pain varies from person to person and can range from mild to severe.

Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)
Our immune systems are meant to protect our bodies from incoming attacks from bacteria and viruses. Unfortunately with RA, our immune systems actually attack our own bodies. This is called an autoimmune disease. In the case of RA, the immune system primarily goes after the lining of the joints, called the synovium. Over time, the persistent inflammation breaks down the joint and damages it permanently.

Psoriatic Arthritis (PsA)
PsA is another autoimmune inflammatory disease like RA. However, not only are the joints affected with this disease but the skin is, too. Unfortunately, 15% to 25% of patients who have psoriasis, a skin disorder that includes patchy, raised, red areas of skin inflammation with scaling, also develop an associated inflammation in their joints.

Gout
Gout is also a form of inflammatory arthritis, however it does not cause body-wide inflammation like RA or PsA does. With this disease your body produces too much uric acid or you’re body is unable to remove the excess fast enough. This can cause a build up in the blood. This excess of uric acid can then form crystals in your joints. As a result, an extreme pain can be felt in the joint due to inflammation. Gout usually strikes in the large joint of the big toe, but can also affect other joints.

So now that you know about some of the various types of arthritis, it’s time to learn how to curb their symptoms.

Reducing Symptoms

Lose Weight
Your weight can significantly affect the health of your joints. As you can see from the information above, a lot of the pain from arthritis is due to inflammation. Having extra weight is only going to apply more pressure to your joints that are flaring up from this inflammation. This excess just puts your knees, hips, ankles, etc. under greater duress. That’s why it’s important to remain active even when experiencing some form of arthritis. Losing extra weight or maintaining right where you need to be will increase your mobility, reduce your chances of greater pain, and prevent future damage.

Exercise Regularly
There is a myth floating around that states exercise and arthritis do not go hand in hand. This is flat out false. The more you exercise the more flexible your joints become. It also helps your weight-bearing muscles become stronger. That way when you’re walking or standing during everyday scenarios, the pain you feel will be greatly reduced.

Hot and Cold Therapy
There’s nothing like a nice warm shower in the morning, especially if you have arthritis pain. Simple hot treatments can make a world of difference. Long, warm showers or baths help ease stiffness in your joints. This increases the mobility within the joints and helps to reduce pain. You can also utilize an electric blanket or moist heating pad at night to keep your joints loose.

Cold treatments are best for relieving joint swelling and inflammation. If you notice your knee or knuckles swelling up from being active during the day, you can wrap a gel ice pack or a bag of ice in a towel and apply it to painful joints. This will provide some quick relief and reduce some of the swelling going on inside of your joints.

Use Medication
Over-the-counter pain medications such as Tylenol, Advil, or Motrin can help relieve occasional pain triggered by activity your muscles and joints aren’t used to. This is to help provide quick relief without having to constantly apply ice or stop everything you’re doing to take a shower or bath. However, it’s important to understand the recommended amount to take. For pills such as Tylenol, where acetaminophen is the main active ingredient, taking too much could result in liver damage. Consult with your doctor to determine the proper amount to take!

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