Suffering from joint pain? Arthritis is a common condition that causes pain and inflammation in a joint. In the UK, more than 10 million people have arthritis, or other similar conditions that affect joints.
Types of arthritis in hands and feet
Osteoarthritis is the most common type affecting 9 million people in the UK and often develops in adults in their mid-40s or older. It’s a condition that is more common in women and people with a family history of the condition. Osteoarthritis affects the smooth cartilage lining of the joint, which makes movement more difficult than usual, leading to symptoms like pain and stiffness.
• Rheumatoid arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis affects more than 400,000 people in the UK. It often starts when a person is between 40-50 years old, however women are three times more likely to be affected than men. With this condition, the body's immune system targets affected joints, which leads to symptoms like pain and swelling.
• Other types of arthritis
- Cervical spondylosis
- Psoriatic arthritis
- Reactive arthritis and more
Causes of joint pain and arthritis
Arthritis is caused by damage or breakdown of joint cartilage between bones. Although arthritis is associated with inflammation and pain, the exact cause of arthritis remains uncertain, and there is no treatment for its fundamental causes. However, there are some practical everyday tips you can try to ease the pain and discomfort of inflamed joints and arthritis.
There are a number of lifestyle habits you can try to adopt in order to help relieve and reduce the symptoms of arthritis:
Painkillers, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), steroid injections and other treatments can help. However, the drugs have serious adverse effects in the gastrointestinal tract and cardiovascular system. Always consult your Doctor.
• Strength training
Anyone can benefit from a strength training program especially people with osteoarthritis. However, the program MUST provide consistent overload to their muscles as they exercise. There is currently no evidence that one type of strength training program is superior to another as long as the program provides progressive overload. This means a rep range of 1-6 reps. 10-12 rep range is for more muscular endurance and if you're looking to just build more muscle. The heavier we lift the less times we'll be able to do it, this then has a knock on effect on that our muscles will primarily adapt to getting stronger, not necessarily bigger.
• Weight loss
Exercise is good for losing weight, improving posture, less pressure on the joints, and relieving stress, which can ease symptoms of arthritis. Consult a Nutritional Therapist and/or your Doctor to help guide you through the process if you are overweight and needed to relieve pressure in your joints.
Natural remedies for arthritis
The assessment of yoga for arthritis is in its infancy, and in general, most studies that have been carried out are small in both size and scope. Most consistent findings were for tender or swollen joints in persons with rheumatoid arthritis, which improved for all three studies that used this outcome. Another outcome used was pain, which improved in six out of eight studies, measured by various instruments. Mental health and energy improved for two out of three studies.
One particular study carried out in 2015, was to measure the effect of integral-based hatha yoga in sedentary people with arthritis. There were 75 adults aged 18+yrs with rheumatoid arthritis or knee osteoarthritis, randomly assigned to 8 weeks of yoga. Average disease duration was 9 years, and at 8 weeks of yoga there was a significant increase in higher walking capacity found among the adults. Also a lower sense of depression, increased flexibility, grip strength and improvements in physical and psychological health were found.
• Curcumin – known for its anti-inflammatory properties
A systematic review and meta-analysis provided scientific evidence that 8–12 weeks of standardised turmeric extracts (typically 1000 mg/day of curcumin) treatment can reduce arthritis symptoms (mainly pain and inflammation-related symptoms) and result in similar improvements of the symptoms as ibuprofen and diclofenac sodium.
However, the sample sizes (45–124) of the studies included in this review were insufficient, and some studies represented moderate quality. Further high-quality RCT studies with more subjects are needed to confirm the therapeutic effect of turmeric and curcumin for arthritis.
Also, it must be considered that Curcumin has a low bioavailability, and several studies have reported that after an oral dose of 50—8000mg in humans curcumin concentrations are low in serum and tissues at 1,2,3 and 4 hr after the dose. Black pepper and a source of fat can help enhance the absorption.
• Omega 3
Omega-3s play a role in brain health: high blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids are associated with a reduced risk of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease and mental disorders such as schizophrenia and depression.
Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids have been the subject of intense research since the mid 1990's, and it is now clear that our balance of omega-6 to omega-3 affects our health as much as any other aspect of dietary fat.
Two essential fatty acids (EFA's) that we consume in food are Linolenic Acid (an omega 6) and Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) (an omega 3). We CAN NOT produce these within the human body, we must consume them in the diet.
Linolenic acid is readily converted to its long-chain metabolite arachidonic acid. However, most humans convert small amounts of ingested alpha-linolenic acid into EPA and even less into DHA. Many people are likely to be deficient in EPA and DHA, and they are both essential to have in the diet. (Look out for a fish oil with a High EPA and DHA content: Wileys fish oil, and Lion Heart are good sources).
EPA and DHA metabolites stimulate the dilation of arterioles (small arteries), which decreases blood pressure and inhibit the expression of inflammatory genes. Daily supplementation with 2.6 gm of omega 3 results in significant clinical benefit and may reduce the need for concomitant antirheumatic medication. (Study conducted on ninety patients in a 12 month double blind, randomized study comparing daily supplementations with either 2.6gm of omega 3, or 1.3gm of omega 3+3gm of olive oil, or 6gm of olive oil).
• Eating more fibre
A 2009 review published in the European journal of Clinical Nutrition reported 25 to 54% lower CRP (C-reactive protein, a marker of inflammation that's been linked to rheumatoid arthritis) levels in people who not only ate a high-fibre diet, but who also lost weight and ate more healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.
In another study, men who ate a lot more fruits and vegetables – going from two servings to eight per day – lowered their CRP levels by one-third. The researchers say the drop was mainly due to eating foods rich in carotenoids, antioxidants that give carrots and oranges their bright colour. Munch on!