One of the most obstructive health-related problems to an independent and happy lifestyle is the declining health and mobility of the joints. Although this problem is more prevalent with mature and elderly people, it certainly does not spare the young. And while it is not life-threatening, it inevitably limits the lifestyles of individuals and their families, particularly when mobility and pain suddenly become daily companions.
Arthritis is a joint disorder characterized by the inflammation of a joint or multiple joints. Joints that are typically affected include joints of the spine, neck, shoulders, elbows, wrists, thumbs, fingers, hips, knees, ankles and toes. There are various forms of arthritis, such as osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, psoriatic arthritis, systemic lupus, crystal arthritis (gout), reactive arthritis and septic arthritis. The most common forms of arthritis are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis and it is classified by the degradation of joints and cartilage. It is not systemic (does not spread throughout the body) and it is prevalent in females.
Rheumatoid Arthritis is an auto-immune disease, a condition where the body attacks its own tissues (rather than those that are foreign or infectious), primarily affecting joints (although other tissues might be involved as well).
Arthritis is typically associated with number of symptoms that include:
- Pain – gradual onset, burning ache, aggravated by movement
- Swelling – not always present, although acute flares may be accompanied by increased joint fluid
- Stiffness – loss of motion, typically accompanied by swelling
- Grinding – possible, although it might not necessarily be due to arthritis
- Reduced function – over months or years
There are many factors playing a role in the development of arthritis including:
- Sports and activities causing trauma (high joint activity and impact sports eg. running, soccer, racket sports)
- Biomechanics (shape, alignment, excessive bowing of the legs, knees, etc.)
- Hormonal influence
- Nerve supply (altered joint sensation due to nerve dysfunction)
- Genetic predisposition
- Predisposition due to previous joint damage (fracture, bone bruising, infection, ligament injury, abnormal joint development, surgery)
With arthritic conditions the treatment plans often include rest, ice treatments, superficial heat treatments, ultrasound, short wave diathermy, interferential bio-electric stimulation, hydrotherapy, physiotherapy, yoga, massage, magnet therapy, acupuncture, chiropractic adjustments and most importantly DIET ADJUSTMENT & STRESS REDUCTION.
It is generally suggested to focus on a diet rich in complex carbohydrates, vegetables, fruits, quality meats and should exclude foods which aggravate the condition, such as processed and allergy causing foods, dairy, wheat, soy, eggs, citrus fruits, coffee and other stimulants, simple sugars including alcohol and junk food, as well as vegetables from night shade family (potatoes, tomatoes, eggplants, etc.).
There are also therapies, particularly popular across Europe and these include a variety of medical, thermal, mineral water spa therapies focused specifically on arthritic problems. These therapeutic medical spas developed numerous procedures to help with this lifestyle restrictive condition and they have been used for hundreds of years to reduce the impact of arthritis on the quality of life.
In addition, there are many simple adjustments which can be incorporated into a daily lifestyle that might help to cope with arthritis. These include but are not limited to: hot baths, hot castor oil packs, temperature-alternating showers, dry towel body massage, regular gentle exercise, such as yoga, and water work-outs.