What is arthritis?
Before trying to answer if arthritis can be prevented, let’s better understand what this disease is. Arthritis refers to a group of more than 200 conditions that affect joints, connective tissues, and other tissues surrounding the joint. The most common types of arthritis are Osteoarthritis, Rheumatoid Arthritis, and Psoriatic Arthritis. Joint injuries and normal wear and tear of the cartilage tissue are the common causes of osteoarthritis, whereas in the case of rheumatoid arthritis, the body’s immune system attacks the joints tissue. Over 54 million people in the US alone are struggling with arthritis. More than 24 million of them are limited in their activities by arthritis.
Can arthritis be prevented?
There is no known way of preventing arthritis, but adopting a healthy lifestyle can help lower your chances. There is nothing that you can do to ensure you won’t get arthritis, but early treatments will save your joints from severe damage and make the symptoms less painful.
Early symptoms of arthritis
Knowing the early symptoms of arthritis can help you know when to seek medical attention. You should not hesitate to see your doctor if you are having any or some of the following early symptoms of arthritis:
1. Joint stiffness
If you are experiencing stiffness in one or some of your joints, that can be an early symptom of arthritis. The stiffness can start with one joint but will worsen with time and start affecting multiple joints. Joint stiffness at any time of the day, whether you are active or not, requires medical attention.
The stiffness can start with one joint and may worsen & affect multiple joints.
2. Joint pain
Joint tenderness and pain during both movement and resting can be an early symptom of arthritis. Whether the pain is mild or severe, you should not hesitate to see your doctor. Mild pain will worsen with time, and you may soon not be able to get out of your bed.
3. Joint swelling
Mild inflammation around the joints that make them appear bigger than usual is an early symptom of arthritis. Feeling of warmth when you touch your joints is a sign of active joint inflammation.
4. A decrease in range of motion
Joint inflammations can deform the tendons and ligaments, resulting in a decrease in range of motion. If you are unable to straighten or bend some of your joints and you don’t have a joint injury, that might be an early symptom of arthritis.
5. Numbness and tingling
Joint inflammations cause pressure on the nerves around the affected joint, causing numbness, tingling, or a burning feeling. If you are feeling pain when you gently press your hands that may be an early sign of rheumatoid arthritis.
A cracking or squeaking noise can be an early symptom of arthritis, indicating that the cartilage of the affected joint is damaged and is grinding against the joint when you are moving.
You are experiencing an early sign of RA if you feel pain when you gently press your hands.
Tips for reducing the risk of arthritis
Here are some of the things that you can do to reduce the risk of developing painful joints as you get older. Some of these practices will also help reduce the risk of other diseases.
1. Control your weight
Excess body weight or obesity is one of the best-known risk factors for developing arthritis. If you have healthy body weight, one of the best things you can do to reduce the risk of developing joint problems is maintaining that weight. If you are obese or overweight, losing excess body weight will help reduce the risk.
Obesity increases the risk of arthritis by four times in women and five times in men. The extra weight strains the joints bearing your body weight and can make cartilage wear away. Some of the most affected joints are the joints of the feet, hips, and knees. Losing at least 5 percent of the excess body weight decreases stress on the lower back, knees, and feet. Losing as little as 11 pounds can decrease the progression of knee arthritis by 50 percent.
Maintaining healthy body weight and reducing excess abdominal fat can help reduce the risk of diabetes. The excess abdominal fat affects your body’s response to insulin hormone that helps control the level of glucose in the blood. Diabetes and arthritis have a connection. Uncontrolled diabetes can affect your muscles and skeleton, leading to nerve damage, joint pain, and other symptoms. According to the Arthritis Foundation, diabetes patients are twice likely to develop arthritis. Being overweight increases the risk of developing both diabetes and osteoarthritis.
Losing at least 5% of your extra weight decreases stress on your lower back, knees, & feet.
Regular exercises help take off the stress of excess body weight and strengthen the muscles around the joints. Weak thigh muscles are known to increase the risk of painful knee osteoarthritis. A small increase in the strength of the quadriceps can reduce the risk. Regular physical exercise will stabilize your joints and protect them from the added wear and tear.
To maximize the benefits of your workout program, you should alternate strengthening exercises with aerobic exercises such as swimming and walking. To maintain flexibility and range of motion, you should add some stretching exercises to your workout program. Isometric moves and wall slides are the best for strengthening quadriceps to reduce the risk of knee arthritis.
If you fear exercising because of joint pain after the exercise, you should try using heat and cold for painful joints. You can also use pain relievers in the case of chronic pain and visit your doctor for further advice. You can also opt for the exercises that put the least bodyweight on the joints, such as swimming, biking, and walking. Remember to consult your doctor before you start exercising if you already have arthritis.
Apart from helping you reduce the risk of arthritis, regular exercise will help you lose excess fat, reduce the risk of diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and increase your brain performance.
Swimming, biking, & walking may help reduce excess body weight.
3. Avoid injuries
A joint injury when you are young increases the risk of osteoarthritis on the same joint when you grow old. People who injure their knee during adolescence or young adulthood are five times more likely to develop osteoarthritis on the same knee compared to people who have never had a knee injury.
Sporting activities are the leading causes of knee injuries, followed by auto accidents. The fear of getting a knee injury should not stop you from participating in sporting activities and exercising. You can reduce the risk of joint injuries by:
- Landing with your knees bent when you are jumping.
- Doing warm-up exercises before you start a vigorous one.
- Resting after vigorous sports.
- Avoid running on concrete or asphalt and exercise on a soft surface.
- Not bending your knees past 90 degrees when doing the half knee bends exercises.
- Wearing proper shoes that will provide you with stability and shock absorption.
- Keeping your feet flat on the ground during stretches to avoid knee twisting.
If you have an injury, you must seek medical attention as soon as possible and avoid exercising before recovering to avoid further damage. Failure to seek joint injury treatment on time increases the risk of severe symptoms and osteoarthritis.
You are more likely to develop osteoarthritis if you had a joint injury when you were young.
4. Follow a healthy diet
You are what you eat. A healthy diet will help reduce the risk of diseases, including arthritis. There is no specific diet against the development of arthritis, but recent studies have shown that certain nutrients can help reduce the risk of arthritis and its severity. Here are some of the nutrients that can help reduce the chances of developing arthritis:
1. Omega-3 fatty acids
Unhealthy fats increase the risk of joint inflammation while these healthy fats decrease it. Some of the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids include fish oil (salmon) and certain plants and nuts oil, including olive, walnut, flaxseeds, canola, and soybeans. Omega-3 fatty acids will also improve your heart health and brain performance.
Calcium plays an essential role in building strong bones and teeth. Lack of enough calcium in the body causes osteoporosis (porous bones) that increases the chances of developing arthritis. Some of the best sources of calcium include green leafy vegetables, dairy products, fish, tofu, nuts, and soybeans. Calcium is also essential in muscle contraction, blood clotting, fluid balance, regulating heartbeat, and nerve impulse transmission.
Lack of calcium in your diet increases the risk of having arthritis & causes osteoporosis.
3. Vitamin D
Vitamin D helps increase the intestinal absorption of calcium and other minerals that help in the formation of strong bones and preventing osteoporosis. Lack of enough vitamin D reduces your body’s ability to absorb enough calcium that is required for the formation of strong bones. Some of the best sources of vitamin D include fatty fish (tuna, salmon, and mackerel), beef liver, dairy products, and egg yolk. Lack of enough vitamin D increases the risk of rickets in babies. Exposing your skin to sunlight makes the body make its own vitamin D. Exposing your baby to the morning sun for about 30 minutes can help prevent rickets. Vitamin D supplements can help reduce arthritis pain.
5. See your doctor
If you start experiencing joint pain and other symptoms of arthritis, you should see your doctor or a rheumatologist. Arthritis damage is progressive. The longer you wait before seeking medical attention, the more destruction to the joint. There is still no known cure for arthritis, but your doctor can recommend lifestyle interventions and some treatments that will slow arthritis progress and help maintain your mobility.
See a doctor or a rheumatologist as soon as you experience joint pains & other symptoms of arthritis.
Arthritis has no cure. The best thing that you can do is to prevent it and seek medical attention when you start exhibiting its early symptoms. Having no cure does not mean you can’t have an active life when struggling with arthritis. Your doctor will prescribe supplements and pain management medications that help stop its progress and reduce its symptoms, which coupled up with active and healthy habits will mostly likely help you keep fully enjoying your life.
Co-founder of MB Zen, digital nomad and freedom seeker. Loves developing projects that improve people’s lives. Functional training, yoga, and healthy eating define his lifestyle since he got his back injured. Fell in love with Yin yoga from the very first session though he won’t say no to any other kind of yoga.