Experience arthritis? Take control

Lifestyle changes and supplements can help reduce arthritis pain

By the year 2040, an estimated 78.4 million people age 18 and older (25.9 percent of the projected total adult population) will have doctor-diagnosed arthritis, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That’s compared with the 54.4 million adults currently living with the condition. Two-thirds of those with arthritis will be women. How can someone with moderate to severe arthritis take control of the pain?

Jeffrey D. Stimac, M.D., orthopedic surgeon with Norton Orthopedic Specialists, says stress reduction, weight loss, regular low-impact exercise and a healthy diet are the keys to reducing or staving off arthritis pain.

Dr. Stimac also recommends trying supplements such as glucosamine sulfate, chondroitin, turmeric, ginger, S-Adenosyl-L-methionine (SAMe), magnesium and omega-3s for arthritis pain relief. He says you’ll generally know in a couple of weeks whether a particular supplement works for you. If it doesn’t work, stop taking it and try another, but check with your doctor or pharmacist first to make sure the supplement doesn’t affect any other medicines you may be taking or vice versa.

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Dr. Stimac also recommends trying massage therapy, tai chi, acupuncture, yoga or qi gong. Some studies have shown that patients get relief from their arthritis pain following one or more of these practices.

Another way to relieve arthritis pain is through your diet. Erin Wiedmar, clinical nutritionist with Norton Healthcare, says when it comes to inflammation, working toward a plant-based diet high in fruits, vegetables, seeds, whole and intact grains, and nuts can be a great starting point to finding relief.

“Next, work to include additional foods high in omega-3 fatty acids like salmon and omega 3-enriched eggs,” Erin said. “Foods to beware of include sweets with added sugar, or worse, high fructose corn syrup; and meat, specifically processed meat. These foods cause inflammation, which makes joints scream for relief.”

In addition to changing your diet, losing weight and getting daily exercise, Dr. Stimac recommends trying mind-body practices. These include relaxation techniques, hypnotherapy and guided imagery. The Arthritis Foundation says guided imagery is done “simply by focusing on mental images that elicit healing feelings, such as cooling hot joints, dulling pain, soothing soreness, softening stiff muscles or relaxing stress and anxiety.” A recent study found those who practiced this mind-over-body technique had less arthritis pain and greater mobility, and reduced their use of over-the-counter pain relievers.

So what’s not to lose — except the pain? Dr. Stimac says the worst thing you can do when dealing with arthritis pain is to do nothing.

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