Arthritis is an umbrella term for a number of conditions that cause swelling and tenderness in one or more of your joints.
The main symptoms of arthritis are joint pain and stiffness, which typically worsen with age.
Osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis are the two most common types of arthritis, and, while these conditions cannot be cured, lifestyle interventions can be taken to alleviate joint pain associated with them.
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Certain foods, for example, have been shown to contain anti-inflammatory properties, and fatty fish, such as salmon, mackerel, sardines and trout, are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which have shown to produce potent anti-inflammatory effects.
In one small study, 33 participants were fed either fatty fish, lean fish or lean meat four times each week.
After eight weeks, the fatty fish group had decreased levels of specific compounds related to inflammation.
Echoing these findings, an analysis of 17 studies found that taking omega-3 fatty acid supplements decreased joint pain intensity, morning stiffness, the number of painful joints and use of pain relievers in patients with rheumatoid arthritis.
Similarly, a test-tube study showed that omega-3 fatty acids reduced several inflammatory markers that are involved in osteoarthritis.
Furthermore, fish is also a good source of vitamin D, which can help prevent deficiency. Multiple studies have found that rheumatoid arthritis may be associated with low levels of vitamin D, which could contribute to symptoms.
To reap the benefits of the anti-inflammatory properties found in fish, the American Heart Association recommends including at least two servings of fatty fish in your diet each week.
Other ways to alleviate joint pain associated with arthritis
According to the NHS, losing weight can help you to cope with arthritis because too much weight places excess pressure on the joints in your hips, knees, ankles and feet, leading to increased pain and mobility problems.
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Exercise may seem counterintuitive if you are in pain, but in addition to helping you lose weight, it can also help to reduce and prevent pain associated with arthritis.
As the NHS points out, exercise can also help:
- Improve your range of movement and joint mobility
- Increase muscle strength
- Reduce stiffness
- Boost your energy
“As long as you do the right type and level of exercise for your condition, your arthritis won’t get any worse,” explains the health body.
It added: “Combined with a healthy, balanced diet, regular exercise will help you lose weight and place less strain on your joints.”
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According to Versus Arthritis, the UK’s largest charity dedicated to supporting people with arthritis, you should aim to do at least 30 minutes of exercise that makes us a bit short of breath five times a week.
It’s also recommended that you spend 30 minutes a day on our feet, such as walking or climbing stairs, notes the charity.
“If you have joint pain, start gently and gradually increase the length of time you’re exercising. You can break this into smaller chunks if you need to,” advises the health body.
It added: “Doing five to ten minutes of exercise each day is important to keep your joints moving and your muscles strong.”
Other self-help tips
As the NHS explains, if you have arthritis, carrying out tasks around the home can be a challenge, however, making some practical changes to your home and changing the way you work should make things easier.
Practical tips that could help include:
- Keeping things in easy reach
- Using a handrail to help you get up and down the stairs
- Using long-handled tools to pick things up or to clean
- Fitting levers to taps to make them easier to turn
- Using electric kitchen equipment, such as tin openers, when preparing food
An occupational therapist can also help if you have severe arthritis that’s affecting your ability to move around your home and carry out everyday tasks, such as cooking and cleaning, notes the health body.
They can advise about equipment you may need to help you live independently, and, depending on the exact nature of your condition, your GP may be able to refer you to an NHS occupational therapist, adds the health site.
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