Here we are in the middle of winter. Our friends who suffer from arthritis tell us that this cold weather causes flare-ups. Let’s review ways to relieve the pain of arthritis so you can move through it.
Moving through arthritis
Causes and symptoms
Nutrition for arthritis
Move through it
Choose compression carefully
Moving through arthritis, if you have it, you know it. About 1 in 4 adults in the US deal with some form of arthritis. It is characterized by pain and stiffness in a joint. Over time, arthritis can take its toll on other areas of life—from relationships to careers to self-esteem.
In previous publications, Drs. Fields and Parker offered tips on moving through arthritis. I think these are worth a fresh look. BodyHelix is fortunate to have these two trusted voices from the medical field who are also accomplished athletes that have offered their valuable advice to us for years. They get it! They appreciate the athlete’s grueling training regime, understand the mechanics of the body, and actively compete.
On top of that, they each have endured their own injuries and recovery processes. You’ll be impressed with their bios at the end of this blog! Let’s hear what they say about arthritis management.
Causes and symptoms
Arthritis occurs when the articular cartilage, or flexible tissue, that coats the ends of the bones breaks down. There are many causes of cartilage loss, including inflammation or trauma. The most common, though, is the degenerative loss of cartilage. This degenerative loss, more commonly known as osteoarthritis (OA or degenerative joint disease), happens when the joint surface is mechanically overloaded due to repetitive asymmetric motion or wear and tear.
Cartilage exists to allow our joints to move effortlessly without friction. Once the cartilage deteriorates, then pain and swelling develop. Swelling of the joint leads to loss of motion and weakness, ultimately leading to a loss of function. Common symptoms include:
- Stiffness in the joints, especially in the morning
- Cracking or crunching types of joint noises
- Stiffness in the joint after sitting or lying down for prolonged periods
- Pain during activity that improves with rest
In colder weather, those suffering from arthritis may experience flare-ups of pain. The cold weather can cause joints to expand, increasing pain. Low temperatures may also increase the thickness of the synovial fluid that acts as the joint’s shock absorber, which makes joints stiffer and more sensitive to pain.
Controlling inflammation is a critical component of arthritis treatment. During injury or infection, the body releases chemicals to help protect it. This inflammatory can result in redness, warmth and swelling at the pain site. So, what can you do to maintain function and keep moving, even though you have pain? The list below are standard practices of arthritis suffers:
- Anti-inflammatory medications (OTC and Rx) may help, as do some homeopathic topical creams.
- The use of ice therapy can reduce inflammation, swelling, and pain related to arthritis.
- Therapeutic ultrasound is a technique that utilizes sound waves (which cause vibration) to decrease pain or improve joint function.
- Laser therapy can speed up the process of relieving inflammation and pain associated with many conditions, including arthritis.
- Massage can help relieve pain and eases muscle stiffness associated with arthritis by improving circulation and enhancing blood flow to arthritic joints.
Nutrition for arthritis
Inflammation and pain management through a well-balanced diet is an essential step for overall health, including muscles and joints. Eliminating the consumption of some foods, especially sugar, that cause inflammation in the body can help with arthritis pain. Eating too many inflammatory foods causes chronic low-grade inflammation throughout the body. This impedes the ability to manage arthritis pain. And more severe health problems like heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and allergies can manifest.
Eating sugar releases opioids and dopamine in our bodies. Sugar is more addictive than cocaine in some animal models. Most people don’t think of familiar foods like pasta and potatoes as unhealthy; however, these carbohydrates can be as bad as sugar in the body. Sugar, in all its forms, is inflammatory. Numerous studies suggest that processed sugars release pro-inflammatory substances in the body, causing further inflammation in the joints. In addition to reducing inflammation, mindful nutrition will ensure a healthy body weight, reducing the added stress and strain on joints.
Move through it
Many adults with arthritis are inactive, fearing further pain with movement. The good news is that the opposite is true – physical activity can help your arthritis! Research shows that continuous movement is highly beneficial for a patient with arthritis. Moving through arthritis requires constant movements.
Before you begin an activity, stretch. Stretching benefits those with arthritis by lubricating joints and enhancing and maintaining range of motion. Additionally, using the correct muscles during movement or exercise is critical to prevent further wear and tear on the painful joint. Working with a physiotherapist may prove effective as you learn to activate the correct muscles.
In addition, the use of compression wraps and sleeves for arthritis pain relief. Body Helix has a full complement of compression products for just about every joint. BodyHelix products provide comfortable compression as well as support. This support helps unburden the surrounding muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Compression also increases proprioception (the concept of knowing where your body is in space and the ability to maneuver around your environment safely) and helps control swelling.
Many people living with arthritis also find that while cold temperatures cause an increase in joint pain, preservation of the body’s warmth helps reduce pain. BodyHelix compression sleeves provide warmth to the surrounding area. Compression sleeves apply pressure to the skin when you move. This compression then sends a message to the spinal cord and the brain, which causes the proper muscles to contract. This muscle contraction causes less wear on the cartilage and, therefore, less inflammation (swelling). Overall, this cycle can slow the degenerative process and keep you moving through arthritis.
Unfortunately, not all compression manufacturers have kept up with available technology and cutting-edge fabric science. Do your research. BodyHelix brings the features you need and want. We’ve achieved optimal compression with our unique Form-Fit Technology:
- Silky-smooth fabric is comfortable and feels good on your skin. No pinching.
- Stays in place – won’t slip or slide.
- Perfect ergonomic fit, allowing full range of motion.
- Grade 1 medical compression (20-30mmHg) effectively relieves mild to moderate joint pain.
- The closed-cell fabric prevents the absorption of sweat, odor, and bacterial growth.
- Machine wash and dry. Laundering won’t affect the longevity of the material.
Remember, our compression sleeves and wraps aren’t just for athletes. BodyHelix products are ideal for moving through arthritis and others who have chronic joint stress. For example, wrist arthritis affects pianists, drummers, and guitar players. Speakers, surgeons, or others who stand for hours at a time may have pain in weight-bearing joints. Compression therapy is beneficial for many situations and people from all walks of life. It offers many more benefits than the average person expects.
Many thanks to Dr. Fields and Dr. Parker for their contributions to this vital topic. Their input, expertise and counsel have been invaluable along our BodyHelix journey.
Karl B Fields, MD, is theDirector of the Sports Medicine Fellowship at Cone Health System. Dr. Fields has extensive experience diagnosing and treating challenging sports-related and musculoskeletal issues, including patients who have not responded to regular care. His athletic experience began as a college runner at Yale University. Dr. Fields has been a champion for our sports compression products since the inception of BodyHelix.
Tom Parker, MD, is the CEO of BodyHelix. Dr. Parker’s medical specialty is Internal Medicine. Currently retired from his esteemed medical practice of over 48 years, Dr. Parker continues his passion for helping others and his love of sports. From cycling to tennis, his athletic experience – coupled with his medical expertise – are invaluable resources upon which team BodyHelix and its customers depend.
In the next edition, we’ll continue our discussion of arthritis and why exercise matters. Moving through arthritis takes careful and continual effort.
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Be well, my friends,