FACT or FICTION: Joint Pain & Rheumatoid Arthritis

 Staying Put at Home Tips for Pain ReliefThere’s so much information and hearsay out there about joint pain and arthritis that it can often become confusing or contradictory. This means that people can often be misled and as a result follow the wrong advice, perhaps making the joint pain worse in the process. For this post, Staying Put at Home looks at the facts and fictions of joint pain and arthritis, and what treatments are available to alleviate and reduce discomfort.

Rheumatoid Arthritis Only Affects Seniors: Fiction
While the risk of arthritis increases with age, arthritis can begin at any time.1 The average age of onset for rheumatoid arthritis is 40.2 It is important to recognize the signs and symptoms of arthritis, like morning stiffness, joint swelling and a decreased range of motion. If you can catch these symptoms early on, then doctors will be able to prescribe the necessary medication to help relieve pain.

Joint Pain Must Be Arthritis: Fiction
While there are more than 100 forms of arthritis (the most prevalent being osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and psoriatic arthritis), having joint pain is not the same as having an arthritic condition. Sometimes, that ache can be a soft tissue injury, bursitis or tendinitis.

Cracking Your Knuckles Causes Arthritis: Fiction
It’s an idea that you have been told countless times since you were a child: If you crack your knuckles, then you will eventually develop arthritis. However, there are no studies that corroborate these assertions.3 However, knuckle cracking has been linked to a weaker grip and swollen hands, so it might be time to let this habit go, if you haven’t already.4

Smoking is Linked to Arthritis: Fact
Smoking has been connected to a multitude of health conditions, so it is little surprise that it is also linked to rheumatoid arthritis. A recent study showed that more than one third of cases of RA can be attributed at least in part to smoking.5 According to Mayo Clinic, smoking also weakens the drugs used to combat rheumatoid arthritis.6 Much like knuckle cracking, smoking might be a habit to kick.

Those with Joint Pain Should Avoid Movement and Exercise: Fiction
While it might not be comfortable to move while your joints are in pain, staying sedentary can cause damage and further joint pain. Exercise is helpful for those who are experiencing joint pain, helping them improve range of motion and flexibility. Not exercising will contribute to muscle, bone and cardiovascular deterioration, which will make it harder for you to exercise in the future.

Hydrotherapy Reduces Joint Pain and Arthritis Pain: Fact
As we have mentioned in a previous post, hydrotherapy can be a great way to relax, ease tension and reduce pain in your joints. Hydrotherapy can also reduce inflammation caused by arthritis, aid in digestion, induce sleep, ease diabetic pain and relax muscles. Studies suggest that it is the warm water that soothes the joints.7 These are just a few of the many benefits of hydrotherapy. There are a couple of ways to receive the soothing benefits of hydrotherapy, including a pool or a walk-in bathtub. If you would like to learn more about hydrotherapy, click here.

Keeping up to date with the latest arthritis and joint pain information can help you treat many potential health conditions. We hope that this look at some common misconceptions has helped you learn more about joint pain and what you can do to ease soreness. If you have any misconceptions that we did not go over, then please share with the Staying Put at Home community in our comment section.

1. Arthritis Frequently Asked Questions | Return to Text
2. 10 Common Rheumatoid Arthritis Myths | Return to Text
3. Is Cracking Your Knuckles Bad? | Return to Text
4. Does Knuckle Cracking Cause Arthritis? | Return to Text
5. 7 Bad Habits to Drop With Rheumatoid Arthritis | Return to Text
6. Smoking and Rheumatoid Arthritis | Return to Text
7. How Hydrotherapy Helps Seniors with Arthritis | Return to Text

Hydrotherapy: What You Need to Know

 Staying Put at Home Tips for Pain ReliefIn an effort to counteract the health conditions that come with age, many seniors are turning toward treatments that have been practiced for millennia. One such method that is growing more popular is hydrotherapy, which is the use of water to relieve discomfort and improve physical well-being. This idea dates back to the ancient Greeks, who used bathing as a way to stave off illness. In this post, Staying Put at Home will review how hydrotherapy works and the potential physical benefits.

What is Hydrotherapy?

There are a few different ways that water can be used as a form of therapy. The Kneipp system, named after its founder Sebastian Kneipp, involves the use of hot and cold water on the skin. External hydrotherapy uses the immersion of the body in water or the application of water to the body. Balneotherapy (from the Latin balneum, meaning bath) is bathing in naturally occurring heated mineral water. Exercising in water is yet another form of hydrotherapy, as it relieves arthritis symptoms, increases flexibility, improves cardiovascular functions and strengthens muscles.

While hydrotherapy usually conjures images of relaxing in a pool or tub, this treatment can also include compresses, poultices and towel wraps. Steam inhalation is another form, as it can open up congested sinuses and lung passages, making it easier to breathe.

As with any kind of treatment, people have different tolerances. What works well for one person can cause pain and aches for another. Find the method of hydrotherapy that works best for you. It can be a good idea to avoid extremes when using hydrotherapy. Cold water hydrotherapy is not recommended for seniors, as it can lead to hypothermia.1 Warm water hydrotherapy should also be approached with caution, as it can lead to overheating.

How Hydrotherapy Works

Heat can be used to slow down the activity of internal organs. This causes blood vessels to dilate, which increases blood flow and sends blood to the skin’s surface, thereby opening the pores and relaxing the muscles. In addition, the warm water will cause the endocrine system to relax. Due to this, a person’s blood pressure will likely go down. The water’s hydrostatic effect can also feel like a massage to the bather, which reduces stress by helping the bather feel and relaxed and at ease.

Water buoyancy can also reduce a person’s weight by roughly 90 percent, depending on the person’s size and the depth of water. So, when a person is submerged in water, gravity’s effects are reduced and the person’s joints have an increased range of motion. This will make joints feel looser, helping alleviate pain from arthritis.

A bath between 97.7 to 104 degrees Fahrenheit and a five minute immersion should be enough to activate the hydrotherapy benefits. But, as we said, it’s important to find a comfortable temperature that works best for the individual bather.

Benefits of Hydrotherapy

Hydrotherapy’s impact on internal and external organs has been shown to be overwhelmingly positive. Just a few of the ways hydrotherapy can benefit its user include:

  • Muscle relaxation2
  • Reducing pain and inflammation from arthritis
  • Helping to induce sleep
  • Preventing headaches, as the arteries in your head will have lower blood pressure
  • Fighting infection by speeding up blood flow and the movement of your immune system’s white blood cells
  • Treating muscle injuries and relieving muscle disease by bringing blood flow to the body’s soft tissue
  • Helping diabetics control their blood sugar by increasing blood flow and maintaining glucose levels
  • Clearing out respiratory infections by relaxing swollen lung canals and air sacs, thereby helping fluids and mucus move out of the lungs
  • Potentially treating depression by alleviating stress and tension, creating a calm feeling3

The point about diabetics is especially important. It is estimated that only 1 in 3 senior diabetics has the condition under control.4 With so few being able to adequately manage their diabetes, hydrotherapy presents a possible option to improve health.

Hydrotherapy and Walk-in Bathtubs

A walk-in tub can be a great way to take advantage of the healing benefits of hydrotherapy. The water and temperature setting controls make it easy to achieve the optimal therapeutic bath. Many walk-in tubs are constructed with air and/or water jets that focus water toward your neck, back, shoulders, hips, legs and feet. This massaging sensation will relieve tension in the areas that need it most. Best of all, you can treat yourself at any time in your own home. There’s no need to spend exorbitant prices for a visit to the spa when you can enjoy the same benefits in the safety and comfort of your home.

Hydrotherapy is an effective treatment for many of the ailments that are affecting seniors and those with chronic pain. We hope that our blog post helped clarify how and why hydrotherapy is a productive option when treating a multitude of conditions.

Is there something you would like to add? Then please share with the Staying Put at Home community by posting a comment.

1. Bath Water Temperature Safety for the Elderly | Return to Text
2. Hydrotherapy Information | Return to Text
3. A Cold Splash–Hydrotherapy for Depression and Anxiety | Return to Text
4. Just 1 in 3 Seniors With Diabetes Has the Condition Under Control | Return to Text

Arthritis-Friendly Exercise: Tai Chi

Pain Relief Staying Put at HomeA healthy lifestyle is essential to aging in place. Especially when arthritis brings on stiffness and pain, it becomes all the more important to take care of your physical wellbeing. Exercise in particular can defend againt joint discomfort and deterioration.

But to reap the rewards of working out, you have to keep at it. And if you’re going to keep at it, you should enjoy it. While walking is probably the most recommended form of exercise for arthritis sufferers, it might not be the right activity for you. Perhaps you bore easily when walking through your neighborhood, or maybe you would rather not go outside if the sidewalks are wet or icy.

Last month, Staying Put at Home began our “Arthritis-Friendly Exercise” series, introducing seniors to activities that can ease joint inflammation. The impact that working out can have on arthritis is considerable, and making it a part of your life could prove instrumental for remaining safe and independent in your home. Today, we take a look at tai chi, a practice that promotes both physical health and mental wellness.

What is tai chi?

Many people associate exercise with speed, sweat and pain. Tai chi takes a different approach. Movement is slow and rhythmic. Breathing is calm and deliberate. Exhaustion is not the goal; rather, tai chi aims toward revitalization. To reach this objective, students engage in a fluid series of motions. When done on a regular basis, this type of activity can improve strength, stamina and balance. National Institutes of Health notes that because tai chi focuses on thoughtful movement, it also offers meditative benefits, which can ease stress and anxiety.

How does tai chi ease arthritis pain?

In a joint, cartilage acts as a buffer that separates bone from bone, and synovial fluid helps to facilitate gliding motion between them. But if cartilage becomes brittle, or if synovial fluid thickens, it can hinder joint movement. Exercise can encourage synovial fluid distribution and cartilage resilience, though, and key to easing your arthritis pain is choosing the right kind of exercise. Sports like tennis and running can be good for overall health, but because of the force you may be putting on your joints, they might acerbate arthritis pain. However, tai chi is considered a low-impact activity, making it an ideal way to foster joint health.

Where can you do tai chi?

Yet another reason why tai chi makes an ideal workout option is because it can be done virtually anywhere. As with many forms of exercise, learning proper tai chi techniques can help to ensure that you get the most out of your practice and minimize your risk of injury. So before trying it on your own, you might want to take a few tai chi classes at your nearest senior center or gym. Starting tai chi with a group can also make it easy to find friends with whom you can later practice outside of class. Even if you choose to continue your tai chi classes, you can do it at home as well. Especially when inclement weather makes it difficult to travel, all you need is a few feet of space to keep up with your exercise routine.

Have you tried tai chi? Tell about why you took up this practice and how it has impacted your joint health in our Staying Put at Home comments section.

Arthritis Prevention: Why What You Eat Matters

Pain Relief Staying Put at HomeDo you suffer from arthritis pain? If so, you’re not alone. Approximately 40 million people contend with stiff and painful joints, making arthritis the most common cause of disability in the United States. Though a disease currently without a cure, arthritis can yet be a manageable condition. Given the relationship between action and arthritis, many people focus on how their movements can either help or hurt their health. However, to effectively manage arthritis pain, it’s important to evaluate diet as well.

Benefits of Anti-Inflammatory Foods

When it comes to successful arthritis prevention, inflammation control is the name of the game. Arthritis occurs when the cartilage and bone that make up a joint suffer damage from the release of chemicals via the body’s immune system. Years of wear and tear, as well as past joint injuries, can also contribute to joint inflammation and deterioration. The good news is that many types of foods contain antioxidants that counteract the inflammation process. The Arthritis Foundation recommends traditional Mediterranean diet staples—olive oil, nuts, fish and fresh produce—because they contain ample antioxidants.

Drawbacks of Too Much Sugar

So if food can ease arthritis pain, does that mean what you eat can aggravate it as well? In a word, yes. Many food ingredients can spike joint inflammation, and refined sugar is a main offender. To better manage arthritis flare-ups, reduce or cut out more obvious culprits such as cakes, cookies, donuts and most other items you would find in your neighborhood pastry shop. Desserts aren’t the only foods that contain processed sugar, though. Many savory items, including breads and pasta sauces, also have high amounts of this ingredient. Beverages often contain sugar as well. Soda, energy drinks, sweetened tea, flavored coffee and even fruit juice can come loaded with sugar that may trigger arthritis stiffness and pain.

Advantages of Low-Calorie Meals

Being mindful of what you eat can protect your joints in many ways. Your food selections can both alleviate arthritic inflammation and lessen joint trauma, and your calorie intake can directly impact the health of your joints. Arthritis experts caution that excessive weight can place undue pressure on the lower back, hips, knees, ankles and toes. When these joints strain under the force of too much weight, it can lead to cartilage deterioration and bone-on-bone abrasion. While a regular exercise regimen can help to burn off extra calories, a nutritious and low-calorie diet can lower the risk of excessive weight as well.

Have some anti-inflammatory tips or dishes that you would like to share with our readers? Please leave your suggestions in our comments.

Make a Fitness Plan and Fight Arthritis Pain

Pain Relief Staying Put at HomeExercise is good for the body and mind. But when arthritis hip pain or arthritis knee pain makes it difficult to walk across the living room, let alone to the park or gym, keeping up with your workout resolutions can become a challenge. While medication can mask arthritis pain, exercise can actually help prevent it from happening. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that physical activity can improve joint function and ease arthritic complications. So to prevent arthritis pain from taking control of your mobility, create a workout regimen that works for you.

Do What You Love

When considering your exercise options, pick activities you want to do—not those you think you should do. Walking can be a great cardiovascular workout, but if you find it tedious, you will likely give up on your walking routine no matter the health benefits that it can bring. So if you would rather bike or swim, make that exercise the cornerstone of your fitness plan. And as with any exercise regimen, get your physician’s approval before heading to the bike path or diving into the pool.

Keep It Diverse

A favorite activity can help to keep arthritis pain at bay. Yet when done too often, any exercise can lead to workout burnout. To avoid exercise boredom, incorporate other forms of physical fitness. For instance, if you typically do aerobic exercise, try weight-bearing activities a few times a week. If you normally frequent the racquetball court, try dance lessons every once in a while. Besides getting a great workout, you might just discover new activities that both you and your joints love.

Rally Your Friends

Some people give up on exercise because they consider it a chore that must be done. If you’re not enjoying your walks, laps or bike rides, find a way to make it more fun. Specifically, enlist your loved ones. Rather than meet up with your buddies once a week to play cards, join the local softball team together. If you don’t see your grandchildren enough, bring them to the pool for some bonding time in the water. You can even transform lunchtime into a power hour walk with your neighbors or coworkers.

Summary Points:

  • Exercise is a proven deterrent to arthritis pain.
  • For lasting arthritis pain relief, find activities that you enjoy and will do consistently.
  • Exploring novel exercise options can keep your fitness routine motivating and fun.

Common Arthritis Pain Questions

Pain Relief Staying Put at HomeArthritis pain can start as mild discomfort that eventually progresses into incapacitating tenderness and stiffness. All too often, sufferers assume that they must put up with these complications. When you understand your condition and the factors contributing to it, though, you can take action for arthritis pain relief.

What is arthritis?

Many people have arthritis pain. Did you know, though, that it is not a single condition? Arthritis encompasses approximately 100 ailments that can damage joints big and small. Rheumatoid arthritis, which the Arthritis Foundation lists as one of the more common types of this disease, can also cause heart, lung, and eye inflammation. Should you suspect arthritis pain, knowing its exact nature is imperative to implementing a successful treatment plan for it.

Why does arthritis develop?

Arthritis can start in several ways. Osteoarthritis, the other prevailing form of this condition, occurs when the cartilage cushioning a joint deteriorates. Rheumatoid arthritis begins when the body mistakes joint tissues as dangerous and mounts an autoimmune attack against them. Experts are still looking into the reasons why some people develop rheumatoid arthritis. However, osteoarthritis can develop as the result of several known factors, including joint injuries, repetitive motion, and excessive weight.

How can you stop arthritis pain?

An accurate arthritis diagnosis is the first step in stopping its debilitating impact. Upon identifying your specific form of arthritis, a physician can recommend management options to alleviate pain and slow joint damage. More advanced cases might require medication or even surgical treatment, but you can also use natural arthritis pain relief measures to improve your symptoms. For instance, both diet and exercise can diminish arthritis pain. Hydrotherapy, which uses water to increase blood flow to the joints and loosen stiff joint tissues, can minimize discomfort as well.

Summary Points:

  • Arthritis includes dozens of different conditions.
  • Your form of arthritis can determine the types of treatment for it.
  • In addition to consulting a doctor about your arthritis, you can use diet, exercise and hydrotherapy for natural arthritis pain relief at home.