6 tips to help ease or prevent arthritis pain

Excerpt: Arthritis is a leading cause of pain and disability among seniors, but there are many effective ways to manage, reduce or prevent pain and discomfort. Do regular strength and range-of-motion exercises to support and ease stress on your joints, and relax your mind and body with low-impact tai chi and yoga. Maintaining a healthy weight, following an anti-inflammatory diet, and using heat and cold appropriately can help reduce pain too.

Arthritis is the leading cause of disability worldwide,* according to University of Alberta. Arthritis is more common in women than men, affecting 1 in 4 Canadian women and nearly 1 in 2 seniors over 65,* the Arthritis Society reports.

Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis (there are over 100 types)* and the one found most often in seniors. While older adults with arthritis often experience pain, the evidence shows there is a lot you can do to manage, reduce, or prevent it.

Here are some steps you can take to help prevent arthritis, or ease common symptoms such as pain, stiffness, swelling or problems in moving a joint:

  1. Do strength and range-of-motion exercises. Strengthening the muscles around your joints helps support and protect them, easing stress on your joints and pain,* advises Mayo Clinic.

  2. Relax and release with mind-body activities. Tai chi is a low-impact, slow-motion, mind-body exercise that relieves chronic pain and depression and promotes better sleep in people with arthritis* and other chronic pain conditions, according to a New England Journal of Medicine study. Yoga helps alleviate arthritic pain by improving flexibility and releasing feel-good hormones such as endorphins,* says Harvard Medical School.

  3. Ease the load on your joints. Maintaining a healthy weight can help to prevent arthritis,* according to the Public Health Agency of Canada. Being only 10 pounds (4.5 kilograms) overweight increases the force on your knees by 30 to 60 pounds (13 to 27 kg) with every step you take.* If a person is overweight, a modest weight loss of 5% can lessen pain and disability,* advises the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

  4. Fight arthritis with anti-inflammatory foods. Follow a Mediterranean-style diet by adding more fruits and vegetables, healthy fats like olive oil and nuts, whole grains, and fish, while limiting sugary, fatty, and salty foods. This can help to reduce inflammation and arthritic pain.*

  5. Support sore joints. Wearing splints and braces when appropriate can protect vulnerable joints and decrease pain or discomfort. Using assistive devices to help with gripping and reaching can also lower the stress on a joint and make daily activities easier, safer and less tiring.*

  6. Use heat and cold for short-term relief. Heat can be used to relax tight, stiff muscles with hot packs, warm baths or showers, a heating pad, or hot water bottle, but should not be used on an inflamed joint. Cold can be used to reduce inflammation of a joint with gel packs, a bag of ice cubes, or a pack of frozen vegetables, but with a towel placed between your skin and the compress.*

Also, consult with your doctor about appropriate medications, if necessary, to help manage pain or limit the progression of arthritis.

*The following sources provide references for this blog, in order of appearance:

1. University of Alberta. “A comparison between GLA:D Canada and an individualized Joint Effort Exercise Program in knee osteoarthritis patients.” (2019), online: https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT03406767 2. Arthritis Society. “The truth about arthritis.” (2020), online: https://arthritis.ca/about-arthritis/what-is-arthritis/the-truth-about-arthritis

3. Mayo Clinic. “Exercise helps ease arthritis pain and stiffness.” (2018), online: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/arthritis/in-depth/arthritis/art-20047971

4. Harvard Medical School. “Tai chi and chronic pain.” (2015), online: https://www.health.harvard.edu/alternative-and-complementary-medicine/tai-chi-and-chronic-pain

5. Harvard Medical School. “Starting yoga: advice for people with arthritis.” (2016), online: https://www.health.harvard.edu/pain/starting-yoga-advice-for-people-with-arthritis

6. Public Health Agency of Canada. “Life with arthritis in Canada: a personal and public health challenge – Prevention and management.” (2010), online: https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/chronic-diseases/arthritis/life-arthritis-canada-a-personal-public-health-challenge/chapter-two-prevention-and-management.html

7. Arthritis Society. “Can decreasing weight decrease pain? Here’s what you need to know.” (2020), online: https://arthritis.ca/living-well/optimized-self/exercise-motion/can-decreasing-weight-decrease-pain-here-s-what-you-need-to-know#:~:text=Researchers%20have%20found%20that%20if%20you%20are%20overweight,significantly%20reduce%20pain%20and%20boost%20mobility%20and%20function.

8. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Weight loss for adults with arthritis.” (2020), online: https://www.cdc.gov/arthritis/communications/features/arthritis-weight-loss.html

9. Mayo Clinic. “Mayo Clinic Minute: Fighting arthritis with food.” (2019), online: https://newsnetwork.mayoclinic.org/discussion/mayo-clinic-minute-fighting-arthritis-with-food/

10. Arthritis Society. “Top tools: Assistive devices to help manage daily life with arthritis.” (2020), online: read://https_arthritis.ca/?url=https%3A%2F%2Farthritis.ca%2Fliving-well%2Fforward-living%2Farthri-tips%2Ftop-tools-assistive-devices-to-help-manage-daily-life-with-arthritis

11. Arthritis Society. “Pain management.” (2020), online: https://arthritis.ca/treatment/pain-management