Arthritis is the leading cause of disability among adults in the U.S. By conservative estimates, roughly 54 million adults have doctor-diagnosed arthritis with osteoarthritis (OA), rheumatoid arthritis (RA), and psoriatic arthritis (PsA) leading the pack.
While you can’t always prevent arthritis, there are recommended best practices you can incorporate to help prevent arthritis from becoming a chronic pain disorder down the road. Some of these best practices can even be used to help alleviate pain as well. Diet, exercise, and posture are three, in particular, I’d like to go over today.
Let’s tackle diet first.
I classify foods as either being inflammatory or anti-inflammatory. Certain foods can trigger a harmful inflammatory response, which can cause all sorts of health disorders such as heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and arthritis.
The most common food culprits to avoid include:
- Seed and vegetable oils
- Processed foods
- Refined sugar
- Fried foods
- Processed meat
- White bread and pasta
While the list may be long of what to avoid, there is also a healthy list of foods to incorporate more of. These are considered to be anti-inflammatory as they help to reduce your risk of long-term health issues.
Foods to incorporate more of here include:
- Olive oil
- Fruits such as blueberries, strawberries, oranges, cherries, and apples
- Green leafy vegetables such as kale, spinach, and collards
- Fatty fish such as sardines, tuna, salmon, and mackerel
- Nuts such as almonds and walnuts
One diet that is closely connected to the tenets of anti-inflammatory foods is the Mediterranean diet. Foods that fall under this diet are typically higher in vegetables, fruits, healthy oils, whole grains, fish, and nuts.
Exercise can take the stress of excess weight off your joints. It can also strengthen your muscles around the joints. This ultimately stabilizes them and can help to protect them from added wear and tear.
Of course, you want to make sure you incorporate a good exercising regimen. Meaning, don’t go all in with aerobic exercising such as walking or swimming and forget to do anaerobic strengthening exercises. Adding in stretching too is key as stretching can help you maintain your flexibility and range of motion.
One form of exercise you can’t go wrong with, which is one I always recommend and even practice with patients is yoga.
Yoga is an important therapeutic exercise that can aid in the chronic pain recovery process. Yoga can also improve your flexibility and mobility, strength, breathing, and muscle response.
Also, when yoga is combined with physical therapy to treat your chronic pain you can significantly improve your chances of faster recovery and overall well-being.
Poor posture can lead to all sorts of long-term issues, including chronic pain. Having poor posture can also be detrimental to your lungs and abdominal organs. And when your lungs are compressed, it makes it difficult to breathe.
If you think about it this makes sense for when your body is slouched while sitting, this ends up creating a short breathing pattern using your upper chest. And when this happens, it makes it difficult to take a deep breath. This ends up encouraging you to keep making your posture get worse over time.
Also, when your abdominal organs are compressed with a poor slouched posture, your internal organs like your stomach and liver get very tight, and they don’t move well. And when they don’t move, these internal organs don’t communicate freely and become restricted. This is when pain can start.
Poor posture can also lead to a malalignment of your spine or knees creating an increase in stress in these areas of your body. The exacerbating arthritis pain, as a result, can decrease your overall function and quality of life.
Below is a good image from a Harvard Health article showing how to properly sit:
Arthritis has been around for many years, and unfortunately, it won’t be going away anytime soon. While you may not be able to prevent arthritis, you can incorporate better practices today to help prevent this chronic pain disorder from crippling you.
If you already suffer from arthritis or would like to learn more about ways in which you can best incorporate these tips further, then certainly reach out to me. I specialize in hands-on manual therapy for health and wellness.
Such specialties include osteopathic muscle energy techniques, visceral manipulation, neural manipulation, craniosacral therapy, and orthopedic manual therapy techniques. I also specialize in other wellness services that offer the best in reducing pain, restoring good body alignment, improving posture and gait, and improving levels of vitality and energy.
Marge Kalfon is the founder of PT by Marge and is a licensed physical therapist in Virginia. She graduated with her Masters of Science in Physical Therapy from Thomas Jefferson University in 1996. Since then, she has practiced in a wide variety of settings ranging from large hospitals to small private practices. She has extensive training and experience with a wide variety of manual therapy techniques as well as orthopedic and neurological rehabilitation.