Top Tips for Fighting Osteoarthritis
Your knees shriek as you walk upstairs and hands hurt when opening a jar. Is it just age or the most common form of arthritis – osteoarthritis? Learn how to heal your deteriorating joints.
Here are 14 do’s and don’ts from top rheumatologists…
When did you start sounding like your grandmother? Those grunts you make bending down to pick up a book or getting out of bed in the morning may be triggered by more than just temporary pain.
Stiff joints could mean that osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis, is sneaking up on you. The disorder occurs when cartilage in your joints starts to wear out. Osteoarthritis pain mostly strikes people, particularly women, after age 40.
Their child-bearing physiology, genes and hormones are partly to blame. Injuries from sports, overuse of the joints and obesity can exacerbate it.
Fortunately, some simple steps can prevent osteoarthritis – or at least halt its progression. We talked to top rheumatologists about the best ways to find joint pain relief. Here are their top do’s and don’ts.
1. Know your DNA.
“Osteoarthritis has a genetic component,” says rheumatologist Nathan Wei, M.D., director of the Arthritis and Osteoarthritis Treatment Center of Maryland. “If your mom and dad have it, odds are good that you’ll have it too.”
Hand arthritis, for example, is commonly an inherited disorder. Pay attention to the early warning signs of pain, stiffness and joint swelling. See your doctor, who may X-ray joints to confirm osteoarthritis.
A physician may also take fluid from fluid-filled sacks (bursa) between the joints to rule out other conditions, such as infection. Once you confirm osteoarthritis, you can take steps to care for them.
2. Change your diet.
The right diet can keep your joints in top form as you age.
“Add more sulfur-containing food – like asparagus, eggs and garlic – to your plate,” says internist Rashmi Gulati, M.D., medical director of Patients Medical in New York City.
“[They] help repair and rebuild bone, cartilage and connective tissue, and aid in calcium absorption,” Dr. Gulati says.
Plenty of whole foods, such as vitamin K-rich leafy greens, have natural anti-inflammatory properties. The vitamin helps prevent inflammation, Dr. Gulati says, which is crucial because the breakdown of bone and cartilage — and the friction between the bones at the joint — trigger irritation.
Many spices also tame the flame, so garnish your plate with oregano, turmeric, rosemary, garlic and ginger. Also, eat a half-cup of fresh pineapple daily. It contains bromelain, an inflammation-fighting enzyme. The canned and frozen varieties don’t have it, she says.Dr. Gulati also recommends dark berries (blueberries) and red vegetables (red peppers), which contain potent antioxidants that decrease inflammation.
“Eat 3-4 vegetables and three fruits a day,” she says. And make sure your diet contains “6- to 8-ounce servings of small [oily] fish — sardines, anchovies or tilapia — five times a week.” These fish contain omega-3 fatty acids, powerful anti-inflammatories.
Can’t eat that much seafood?
Dr. Wei recommends daily omega-3 supplements, following dosage recommendations on the bottle. They’re available in tablets or capsules at most drugstores and health-food stores.
But skimp on fruits and vegetables, such as eggplants, white potatoes and tomatoes, which contain solanine, a bitter poisonous compound.
“It interferes with enzymes in the muscles, causing pain and discomfort,” Dr. Gulati says.
Do low-impact aerobics like swimming, cycling or elliptical training regularly, Dr. Wei says. Keeping muscles around the joints strong and flexible prevents pain.
He recommends using stationary exercise machines, which reduce wear and tear on your joints.Walking outdoors is great too, he says, “as long as you wear well-cushioned shoes and walk on soft surfaces like grass or dirt.”
Start slowly, working up to at least 30 minutes of gentle exercise most days of the week. If you work in front of a computer from 9 to 5, get up, move around and stretch throughout the day. Sitting still only exacerbates stiffness and pain.
Stretching trains tendons and ligaments to support your joints, Dr. Wei says. Stretch muscles associated with the “joints you use the most — and not before you warm up,” he says. Stretching cold muscles makes injury much more likely. “After exercise, when your muscles and tendons are warm, is the best time to stretch.” Thirty-minute yoga sessions 2-3 times a week are another way to stretch, stay flexible — and relaxed, Dr. Gulati says.
Her advice is backed by science: A 2005 University of Pennsylvania study found that after eight weeks of 90-minute yoga sessions, people with knee osteoarthritis had significantly less pain, better function and happier moods.
Knee osteoarthritis is common, but strengthening quadriceps muscles at the front of the thigh helps stabilize your knee and prevent osteoarthritis — or at least keeps it from getting worse.
“It’s as easy as leg lifts,” says rheumatologist Frank Arnett, Jr., M.D., a professor at the University of Texas Medical School at Houston. “Sit in a chair and [straighten] one leg, hold it for 10 seconds and repeat 15 times. Do that daily three times in each leg, and I guarantee that you’ll see your quadriceps grow,” Dr. Arnett says.
A small 2001 Tufts University study of 46 people with knee osteoarthritis found that people in a four-month strength-training program had a 71% improvement in knee strength and a 36% improvement in pain.
6. Alternate ice and heat.
“Ice can be your friend,” especially after a workout because it reduces swelling and inflammation, Dr. Wei says. Put a bag of frozen peas on the painful spot for 15-20 minutes twice a day, he advises. Or try alternating cold and hot packs, Dr. Gulati says. That way you can have continuous pain relief — and the heat relaxes tight muscles. “Put one on for 5 minutes, then the other, for up to 15 minutes,” advises Dr. Gulati.
If you use an ice pack, place a cloth between the pack and your skin to avoid irritation, Dr. Wei says.
7. Consider glucosamine-chondroitin.
Glucosamine — a derivative of glucose — is one of the building blocks of new cartilage. Chondroitin is a carbohydrate that slows the breakdown of cartilage. Together, they may help your osteoarthritis.
The largest study on the use of glucosamine and chondroitin supplements, the 2006 Glucosamine/Chondroitin Arthritis Intervention Trial (GAIT), looked at 1,583 patients with knee pain caused by osteoarthritis.
Researchers found that the drugs together weren’t much more effective than placebos in stopping cartilage deterioration, but they helped relieve moderate to severe knee pain. Despite the results, Dr. Wei remains a believer and user. “A number of European human studies have shown they work,” he says. “I take them and when I go off them, I notice it.”
8. Soak in Epsom salts.
“Epsom salt baths relax the muscles that cramp up with inflammation,” Dr. Gulati says. It’s a combination of sulfates and magnesium. The minerals, which are essential for healthy bones and joints, is absorbed into the body through the skin. “Put 5 ounces of the salts in a warm water bath and soak for 10-15 minutes,” Dr. Gulati says.
9. Get outdoors.
Sunshine stimulates vitamin D production in the body, essential for proper bone formation. So consider this a two-fer tip: Get your exercise and vitamin D at the same time on your daily walks. You also can get your daily dose of vitamin D through foods, including fortified milk, salmon, sardines and eggs. Or take a supplement.
The current federal recommendation for vitamin D is 600 International Units (IU) daily for adults, but many physicians feel that 1,000 IUs a day is ideal. Consult your doctor before taking any supplements.
1. Don’t gain weight.
Obesity and joint pain are constant companions. “If you are overweight or obese, it is nearly impossible to avoid inflamed joints in your legs, pelvis or lower spine,” says physical therapist Matthew Goodemote, MPT, founder of Community Physical Therapy & Wellness (“The Wellness Center”) in Gloversville, N.Y.
The best way to lose weight? Eliminate high-fat, high-sugar foods and eat fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean meats and fish instead. Get out and exercise too, even if you only walk around the block. Every little step helps you lose weight and ward off joint pain.
2. Avoid regular cortisone shots.
You’ll get immediate relief from cortisone injections, a short-acting steroid that reduces inflammation and pain. But keep in mind: Cortisone inactivates vitamin D, hampers calcium absorption and inhibits growth hormone, which is important to bone repair. The upshot is weaker bones, ligaments and tendons. “This is a major don’t,” Dr. Wei says, because corticosteroids can damage cartilage over time. “The more shots you get, the worse the damage.”
3. Don’t smoke.
“Smoking damages joints,” Dr. Gulati says. Tobacco’s toxins also stress connective tissue, which leads to more problems.
In a 2007 Mayo Clinic study of men with knee osteoarthritis, smokers were twice as likely to lose significant amounts of cartilage than nonsmokers. The researchers believe that smoking slows cartilage cell production and raises the levels of blood toxins, which leads to cartilage loss. Smoking also increases carbon monoxide levels in the blood, which could indirectly affect cartilage repair.
4. Don’t overuse painkillers.
Anti-inflammatories, such as ibuprofen (Advil) or naproxen (Aleve), should be used in moderation for pain; overuse leads to other medical trouble, Dr. Gulati says. Among the risks: high blood pressure, stomach upset and injury and heart and breathing problems.
“Many people don’t consider over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NAISDs) as drugs,” she says. “But using 3-4 times the recommended dose over months and years is very dangerous.”
5. Don’t run — walk.
“People who engage in high-impact exercise over time will get osteoarthritis because of the repetitive shock to the joints,” Dr. Wei says. That’s backed by recent research. A 2009 University of California, San Francisco study of 236 people with no arthritic symptoms found that those who were very active – doing several hours a week of walking and other sports — were more likely to have cartilage damage and ligament lesions. Those who did high-impact activities (running and jumping, for example) were likely to have even more cartilage damage.
For years, you’ve been the first one on the tennis courts, the weekend hiker, the intrepid gardener on your knees for hours. While all those activities are great for you, they can also be hard on your joints.
So keep it gentle and regular – and mix up your exercise routine, Dr. Wei advises. Varied workouts – for example, swimming one day and doing yoga the next – avoid repetitive movements that may damage your joints, Dr. Wei advises.
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Here are some other blogs, videos that also cover Tips for Fighting Osteoarthritis along with some recipes to try for an Osteoarthritis Diet;
Foods for an Osteoarthritis Diet
Nutritionists have long been recommending foods such as vegetables, cherries and fatty fish for minor osteoarthritis pain relief, a common degenerative condition of the joints. But recently, some English researchers looked into whether certain foods might help prevent or slow the progression of arthritis. The active compounds in these foods are sulforaphane, found in cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, and diallyl disulphide, found in “allium” vegetables such as garlic and onions.
Diallyl disulphide helps block a reaction that leads to osteoarthritis, according to a 2010 study published in BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders. When researchers looked at adult female twins, they found that those who ate more alliums had a lower rate of arthritis in their hips. “The data suggests a protective association between allium vegetables and osteoarthritis,” says researcher Ian Clark, Ph.D., a professor of musculoskeletal biology at the University of East Anglia, who participated in the study.Clark’s team also found sulforaphane blocks enzymes responsible for joint destruction, and is looking into whether eating vegetables such as broccoli can also help prevent arthritis.
Anti-inflammatory foods such as fatty fish, cherries and berries, and seasonings such as ginger and turmeric, may help ease arthritis pain. And some research suggests that cruciferous vegetables (such as broccoli and cabbage) and allium vegetables (such as garlic and onions) might also help reduce pain or slow joint degeneration.
Losing excess weight with a lower-calorie, high-nutrition diet is also important if you have arthritis.
Research is in its early stages, and so far the idea that vegetables could be a part of osteoarthritis treatments has only been demonstrated in laboratory tests.
But why wait?
These vegetables are delicious and loaded with nutrition, so there’s no reason not to eat them frequently. If it turns out that they’re a tasty arthritis cure, that’ll just be a bonus.
They fit perfectly into a lower-calorie eating plan – and losing excess weight is another important way to prevent arthritis pain and reduce stress on joints, according to the National Arthritis Foundation.
So load up your plate with the following foods to fight arthritis and try 6 recipes that use them:
- Cruciferous vegetables: Broccoli, broccoli sprouts, kale, bok choy, Brussels sprouts and raw cabbage (especially Savoy or red varieties)
- Allium vegetables: Garlic, onions, leeks, chives, shallots and scallions
This onion-packed Italian-style omelet is delicious with just about any herb combination; try parsley, dill, chervil or marjoram.Serves: 1
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes
1 cup diced onion
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon water, divided
1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup liquid egg substitute, such as Egg Beaters
2 teaspoons chopped fresh herbs, or 1/2 teaspoon dried
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons farmer’s cheese, or reduced-fat ricotta
1. Bring onion and 1/4 cup water to a boil in a small nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Cover and cook until onion is slightly softened, about 2 minutes. Uncover and continue cooking until water has evaporated, 1-2 minutes. Drizzle in oil and stir until coated. Continue cooking, stirring often, until onion begins to brown, 1-2 minutes more.2. Pour in egg substitute, reduce heat to medium-low and continue cooking, stirring constantly with a heatproof rubber spatula, until egg is starting to set, about 20 seconds. Continue cooking, lifting the edges so uncooked egg will flow underneath, until mostly set, about 30 seconds more.3. Reduce heat to low. Sprinkle herbs, salt and pepper over the frittata. Spoon cheese on top. Lift up an edge of the frittata and drizzle remaining 1 tablespoon water under it. Cover and cook until egg is completely set and cheese is hot, about 2 minutes. Slide frittata out of pan using the spatula and serve.
7 g fat (2 g sat, 4 g mono)
10 mg cholesterol
16 g carbohydrates
15 g protein
3 g fiber
529 mg sodium
339 mg potassium
Nutrition Bonus: vitamin C (20% Daily Value)
You get garlic and broccoli in this fast, bold-tasting Asian-style dish with a rich and warming glaze.Serves: 4
Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes
1 teaspoon sesame seeds
1/2 cup water, divided
1 teaspoon rice-wine vinegar, or white-wine vinegar
1 teaspoon cornstarch
2 teaspoons black bean-garlic sauce
2 teaspoons canola oil
1 clove garlic, minced
4 cups broccoli florets
1. Toast sesame seeds in a small dry skillet over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until lightly browned and fragrant, 2-3 minutes. Transfer to a bowl to cool.2. Mix 1/4 cup water, vinegar and cornstarch in a small bowl. Add black bean sauce and stir until smooth.3. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet or stir-fry pan over medium-high heat. Add garlic and stir-fry until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add broccoli and stir to coat. Add remaining 1/4 cup water; cover and steam just until broccoli is tender-crisp, 1-3 minutes. Push broccoli to sides and pour sauce mixture in center. Stir until sauce begins to thicken, about 1 minute. Stir in broccoli to coat. Serve immediately, sprinkled with the sesame seeds.
3 g fat (0 g sat, 2 g mono)
0 mg cholesterol
6 g carbohydrates
2 g protein
2 g fiber
133 mg sodium
247 mg potassium
Nutrition Bonus: vitamin C (110% Daily Value), vitamin A (45% DV), folate (13% DV)
Preparation time: 50 minutes
Cook time: 50 minutes
1 pound 90%-lean ground beef
3/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro, divided
1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
1/4 cup chopped scallions
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 tablespoon chili powder, preferably New Mexican
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, preferably Mexican
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup reduced-fat mayonnaise
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 tablespoon chopped chipotle chile in adobo
1/2 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
4 French rolls , preferably whole-wheat, split and toasted
2 roasted Anaheim or poblano peppers
1 cup shredded green cabbage
4 slices tomato
4 thin slices red onion
1. Preheat grill to medium-high.2. Place beef, 1/4 cup cilantro, onion, scallions, garlic, chili powder, cumin, oregano, pepper and salt in a large bowl. Gently combine, without over-mixing, until evenly incorporated. Form into 4 equal patties, about 1/2-inch thick and oval-shaped to match the rolls.3. Combine remaining 1/2 cup cilantro, mayonnaise, lime juice and chipotle in a small bowl.
4. Peel roasted peppers, halve lengthwise and remove the seeds.
5. Oil grill rack. Grill burgers until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the center registers 165°F, about 6 minutes per side. Top with cheese and cook until it’s melted, about 1 minute more.
6. Assemble burgers on toasted rolls with chipotle mayonnaise, half a roasted pepper, cabbage, tomato and onion.
19 g fat (7 g sat, 6 g mono)
82 mg cholesterol
34 g carbohydrates
30 g protein
7 g fiber
695 mg sodium
628 mg potassium
Nutrition Bonus: zinc (47% daily value), vitamin C (35% DV), iron (30% DV), vitamin A (25% DV), calcium (20% DV)
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 25 minutes
1 tablespoon butter
1 pound Brussels sprouts, trimmed and quartered
1/4 cup chopped hazelnuts
1/4 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
3 tablespoons water
1. Position rack in bottom third of oven; preheat to 450°F.2. Place butter on a large rimmed baking sheet and roast until butter is melted, browned and fragrant, 4-5 minutes. Remove baking sheet from oven; toss Brussels sprouts and hazelnuts with browned butter and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Return to oven and roast for 7 minutes. Sprinkle with water; toss and continue roasting until sprouts are tender and lightly browned, 7-9 minutes more.Enjoy!
8 g fat (2 g sat, 3 g mono)
8 mg cholesterol
10 g carbohydrates
4 g protein
4 g fiber
172 mg sodium
441 mg potassium
Nutrition Bonus: vitamin K (216% Daily Value), vitamin C (130% DV), folate & vitamin A (20% DV)
Marinating in garlic- and lemon-infused oil turns precooked shrimp into a simple yet elegant dish.Serves: 12
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes
3 tablespoons minced garlic
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1-1/4 pounds cooked shrimp
1. Place garlic and oil in a small skillet and cook over medium heat until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add lemon juice, parsley, salt and pepper. Toss with shrimp in a large bowl. Chill until ready to serve.Enjoy!Nutrition Facts
3 g fat (0 g sat, 2 g mono)
92 mg cholesterol
1 g carbohydrates
10 g protein
0 g fiber
154 mg sodium
108 mg potassium
Nutrition Bonus: protein, selenium
Pan con tomate, a classic Catalan tapa, is a tasty way to eat garlic. Serve alongside a soup or stew, or with thinly sliced prosciutto and Manchego cheese for a tantalizing appetizer.
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes
2 slices whole-wheat country bread
1 small clove garlic, cut in half
1/2 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 small plum tomato, cut in half
Kosher salt & coarsely ground pepper, to taste
1. Grill or toast bread. Rub one side of the toasted bread with the cut-side of a garlic clove half and drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil. Rub with the cut-side of a tomato half. Sprinkle with kosher salt and coarsely ground pepper.Enjoy!Nutrition Facts
3 g fat (1 g sat, 2 g mono)
0 mg cholesterol
12 g carbohydrates
4 g protein
2 g fiber
168 mg sodium
82 mg potassium
Lifescript is an excellent source for recipes especially when looking for very specific diet needs. We have provided a link below for your convenience;
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