That pain and stiffness in your joints caused by osteoarthritis can tend to be difficult to manage, especially when symptoms affect your ability to do daily activities such as walking, climbing stairs, writing and opening bottles. But you’re not alone.
In Australia, osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis, affecting more than 1.8 million Australians. It can appear at any age, but tends to occur more in women and in people aged over 40 years, or those who have had severe joint injuries.
There are a number of different ways you can ease symptoms of osteoarthritis and reduce pain in the future.
While you may worry that exercising with osteoarthritis could harm your joints and cause more pain, regular exercise can instead prevent stiffness in the joints as well as stimulate circulation and healing. Low-impact aerobic exercise, such as walking, swimming or yoga, is gentle on the joints while providing maximum health benefits.
Vitamin D is a crucial nutrient for strong bones and is more likely to be lacking in people who take oral corticosteroids. Because those with osteoarthritis are often prescribed oral steroids, it’s very important to ensure that your vitamin D levels are regularly checked. Vitamin D is essential for calcium absorption for optimal bone and muscle function. A vitamin D3 deficiency may impact bone health and lead to an increase in falls and fractures. Speak to your healthcare practitioner who can recommend a suitable vitamin D3 supplement.
Your diet alone will not ‘fix’ osteoarthritis. However, there are changes you can make that may ease your symptoms. If you have osteoarthritis, your body is in an inflammatory state, so it is essential to avoid inflammatory foods such as sugars and processed foods. Instead, include healthy fats such as fish, grass-fed/pastured animals, eggs, nuts and avocados. Eating regular small meals, eating more protein, and consuming less simple carbohydrates (like processed white breads) can help maintain healthy blood sugar levels. Maintaining balanced blood sugar helps to facilitate proper circulation and appropriate healing mechanisms in the body.
The ancient spice turmeric, also known as curcumin, has natural anti-inflammatory qualities and is showing increased promise in joint inflammation. People living in India first used turmeric as an ingredient in curry and later on discovered that it has impressive medicinal qualities. Turmeric can easily be added to your diet. Its roots and bulbs look quite similar to ginger and are generally boiled and dried to form powder. You can grate it like ginger on your foods, add it to teas or take it as a supplement. Readily available powder form is also generally found in supermarkets and health food stores.
More osteoarthritis patients are seeking herbal remedies to take a natural approach than ever before. Certain herbs, such as curcumin which we just spoke about, have anti-inflammatory properties that can help with osteoarthritis, as well as the ability to reduce pain in all forms of the condition. Certain types of omega-3 can also reduce inflammation from osteoarthritis and may help to relieve joint pain and stiffness. Chondroitin sulphate may also help to reduce pain by helping to slow down the degradation of cartilage and restoring lost cartilage. Supplementing with amino acids (protein), which are essential building blocks for cartilage in your body, would also be helpful.
Speak to your healthcare practitioner for more information about managing your osteoarthritis.