Overcome arthritis issues to keep lifting on

While most of us associate arthritis with old age it is, in fact, a debilitating condition that can affect a person of any age.

The causes of the initial on-set of arthritis are still relatively unknown, but it is, in the case of rheumatoid arthritis, a condition associated with systemic and chronic inflammation. Overweight people also tend to be at higher risk, however it is unclear whether this is associated with the excess stress this extra weight places on their joints, or if it is more related to the inflammation present in obese individuals.

Arthritis is characterised by swelling and stiffness that occurs in the joints. Every joint consists of two bones, which are held together by ligaments. These ligaments are like elastic bands. As our muscles contract and relax they stretch and also work to keep our bones in place.

Each of the two bones is covered in cartilage to prevent them from rubbing directly against one another and the joints are surrounded by a capsule, which is filled with synovial fluid that nourishes both the joint and cartilage.

The way the condition affects the joints depends on the type of arthritis. The three common conditions include:

  1. Osteoarthritis
  2. Rheumatoid arthritis
  3. Infectious arthritis

However, arthritis can affect each person very differently, from the level of pain felt to the duration the pain lasts.

READ MORE | Don’t Take Bone & Joint Health For Granted

Rheumatoid arthritis

A common condition is rheumatoid arthritis, a type of auto-immune disease that occurs when the synovial membrane, which produces synovial fluid, is ‘attacked’, resulting in severe swelling and relentless pain.

It generally occurs in fingers, arms and wrists. Joints will be tender, even to the touch, and are at their most painful in the morning when you wake up, as you’ve experienced. This pain can last for up to 30 minutes at a time.


Osteoarthritis occurs when cartilage in the joints stiffens and, as a result, gets easily damaged. This is often due to overuse. The damaged cartilage will slowly wear away, so the bones will begin to rub against one another, which is what causes the severe pain.

The symptoms for osteoarthritis develop slowly over time and will lead to a loss of flexibility in the joints. Pain will therefore be experienced during, after or even within a period of inactivity of the joint.

Infectious arthritis

Infectious arthritis is when the synovial fluid and tissue in the joints become infected. It is more commonly caused by bacteria, but can also result from fungi or viruses. The bacteria, fungus or virus will spread from nearby tissue, through the bloodstream and into the joints.

Joints of the knee, shoulder, elbow, wrist and finger are the most commonly affected areas. Sharp pain with tenderness around the joints will be experienced.

Managing arthritis

The problem is that, in general, you cannot cure arthritis. You can only adapt your lifestyle and learn how to live with and manage the condition.

Your first priority is to ensure the condition does not progress. To do so, follow these tips:

  • Avoid excessive strain – Try to avoid repetitive strain or pressure on certain joints. If any aches or discomfort if felt above normal pain levels in a particular joint, a physician should be consulted.
  • Exercise regularly – Inactivity can exacerbate arthritis. By exercising regularly you can promote and maintain the strength and flexibility of joints.
  • Stay hydrated – Joint cartilage consists of 70% water, so hydration is very important to maintain healthy joints. Try to replace other beverages such as carbonated drinks and coffee with water as they are diuretics, which results in water loss.

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Eating to ease arthritis

Above all else, it seems that a healthy, well-balanced diet that reduces systemic inflammation and restores immune function, is the most important treatment for rheumatoid arthritis.

A good diet will also limit excessive weight gain, which may not be a concern for you now, but adding a few kilos could make your condition worse.

Certain foods are inclined to either eliminate the symptoms of arthritis or make them worse, depending on their effect on inflammation.

Although the diet recommended for arthritis (often referred to as an anti-inflammatory diet or the arthritis diet) has never been clinically proven to eliminate the effects of the disease, many people across the globe have said it has helped relieve their symptoms.

The guidelines include:

  • Remove all processed foods from your diet, especially sugar and hydrogenated and trans fats (man-made fats).
  • Adopt a predominantly whole-food diet from natural sources (as close to nature as possible), with a focus on leafy greens and other colourful vegetables, some fruit – preferably berries for their antioxidants.
  • Include a variety of healthy fats such as nuts, avo, and olive oil.
  • Don’t eliminate saturated fat from your diet completely as it is an important constituent of healthy cells.
  • Eat a variety of protein sources, with a predominance of fish, eggs, dairy and chicken, and some red meat.

Eating in this manner will ensure that you get all the essential vitamins, minerals and nutrients required for good joint health in your diet.

Some examples of the these vitamins and minerals include vitamins C and D, boron, glucosamine and chondroitin sulphate (which contains acetylgalactosamine and glucuronic acid).

READ MORE | The Importance Of Food Variety For Optimal Health And Diet Success

Supplement support

If your diet is deficient in these substances then consider using a supplement in the form of a joint support formula.

To help you make better food choices, try to limit or avoid the following:

  • Coffee – Only drink one cup of coffee a day, and avoid decaf and instant coffee.
  • Drinks – All carbonated drinks and fruit juices should be avoided because of the sugar content.
  • Meats – Limit bacon, kippers and red meat due to their acidity.
  • Vegetables – Tomatoes, potatoes, bell peppers, aubergines and eggplant should be eaten sparingly.
  • Fruits – Be weary of bananas, peaches, oranges, pineapple, pears, melons and all citrus fruits.

The benefit of movement

Lastly, many people incorrectly believe that exercise exacerbates arthritic joint pain. However, regular movement is essential to maintain mobility and improve joint health and strength. Just be weary of exercises that overload the joint or require that it work in unnatural planes of movement.

The correct forms of exercise, which should include stretching, mobility, and strength, also helps to build strong muscles around the joint. Regular exercise, including cardio, can also help to reduce inflammation.

It is, however, very important to consult a doctor or physical therapist before engaging in an exercise routine if your arthritis gets worse. They can advise on additional treatment protocols, including the possible use of medication, as well as the necessary precautions required to avoid further damage to the affected joints.

Author: Pedro van Gaalen

When he’s not writing about sport or health and fitness, Pedro is probably out training for his next marathon or ultra-marathon. He’s worked as a fitness professional and as a marketing and comms expert. He now combines his passions in his role as managing editor at Fitness magazine.

When he's not writing about sport or health and fitness, Pedro is probably out training for his next marathon or ultra-marathon. He's worked as a fitness professional and as a marketing and comms expert. He now combines his passions in his role as managing editor at Fitness magazine.

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