It’s raining, It’s pouring! My pain levels are soaring!
There is a quote that goes, “some people feel the rain, others just get wet.” But we also know some have the special gift of being able to “feel the rain” without having to be outside. Now that April showers have come and gone, and May is here, let’s talk about the sore subject of arthritis! Most people associate arthritis with stiffness, creaky, achy joints that may or may not sometimes swell. There are a few types of arthritis, but 3 of the most common are; Osteoarthritis, Rheumatoid arthritis, and Gout. As we roll into National Arthritis Awareness Month, let’s take a look at common types of arthritis and what you can do to manage it.
Arthritis Awareness: 3 Common Types of Arthritis
Commonly known as the “wear and tear” of the shock absorbers in our joints, osteoarthritis is what typically occurs as we age. Cartilage cushions our joints, and with repetitive habits and activities, the cartilage wears away causing extra stress on the joints and bones. Osteoarthritis usually affects the weight-bearing areas of our bodies, including the spine, hips, knees, ankles, and feet.
Signs and symptoms:
- Pain, stiffness, and tightness, worse in the mornings
- Symptoms that last for up to 30 minutes
- Crepitus or creakiness, deep ache
- Difficulty getting up from resting positions
An autoimmune disease, where the immune system finds a way to attack parts of our bodies, rheumatoid arthritis attacks the joints causing inflammation. The inflammation causes pain and stiffness, and people may notice nodules in the affected areas over time. Rheumatoid arthritis is commonly seen in the smaller joints in our bodies, such as the elbows, wrist, hands, and feet.
Signs and symptoms:
- Nodules in the hands and wrists
- Pain is affected on both sides of the body
- Persistent pain throughout the day
What used to be known as “the disease of the kings,” gout may affect people after a night of drinking alcohol and eating foods rich in purines, such as shellfish and red meat. The purines in foods break down in the body, producing uric acid. Uric acid buildup then develops crystals in the joints, which cause pain, redness, and swelling. Gout can affect the elbows, knees, ankles, and feet, but most commonly targets the big toe.
Signs and symptoms:
- Extreme pain at commonly the big toe
- Redness and swelling in the affected area
- Tenderness, warmth, and pain to touch
- Difficulty moving, stiffness
Arthritis Awareness: Tips for Managing
There’s no cure for arthritis, but managing and reducing the effects of arthritis should be a collaborative effort between you, your healthcare providers, and the support you have from your circle of friends and family. Here are some tips to keep in mind:
- Managing arthritis is a joint effort
Follow up with your physician or healthcare provider to see how they can help alleviate your pain and symptoms through medical treatment; such as medications, injections, or the use of topical creams. Also, go see your favorite physical therapist for guided exercises to build the strength around your joints, and to get you safely moving.
- Shake out those creaky crawlers
They say motion is lotion, so start with a light exercise program to get those muscles and joints loose, stretched, and build up strength. Exercise does not have to be strenuous; slow and steady wins the race. Any activity to get you moving, blood flowing, and bringing awareness to the muscles in your body and the joints can be good for you. If you don’t know of any good exercises to start with, it may be a good idea to see your physical therapist for guidance.
- Get moving and grooving
Walking is one of the best forms of exercise, and maintaining mobility and your ability to walk is also important to your overall well-being and function. Go to comfort, and don’t overdo it. Grab a friend or a family member, and start an easy walking program together to help keep you accountable and motivated. You don’t have to push it. Remember, a general rule of thumb that I like to use is, “Whatever distance you walk, be sure to be able to walk it back.”
- Take breaks
Modify activities if you need to do so when doing household chores and running errands. Be sure to pace yourself with your activities, and spread them out over time to avoid over-fatigue, exhaustion, and potential injury. Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it!
And now that we’ve cracked the surface on arthritis, here’s a little joke to help ease the pain:
Q: How do you feel about arthritis?
A: I feel pretty swell!
Happy national arthritis awareness month to all! If you are concerned about your physical health or just don’t know where to get started… Contact your local movement expert. Together, you can create a plan to get you back on your feet while safely performing the activities that you love.
Photo by Ron Lach from Pexels: https://www.pexels.com/photo/a-woman-wearing-pink-leotards-and-silver-tights-7927950/