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Living Well with Arthritis
Living Well with Arthritis

Hippocrates (460-377BC), the father of medicine, gave an early reference to arthritis as ‘a disease with fever, severe joint pain; fixing itself in one joint now, then in another, of short duration, acute, not leading to death, more apt to attack the young than the old’.
Arthritis is not an inevitable part of aging. Arthritis, today describes more than 100 chronic diseases of the joints, bones and muscles, ‘Arthron’ in Greek mean joint and ‘itis’ means joint and inflammation. Arthritis thus refers to the pain and inflammation of the joints. It is now recognized that arthritis results in more lost work days and more sickness than any other disease.

Rheumatology refers to the study of medical disorders of joint and connective tissues and doctors who treat these disorders are known as rheumatologists. The connective tissue provides structural support for the cells in the body. Bone, skin, ligaments and tendons are all connective tissue.

Until a few decades ago, a diagnosis of arthritis was deeply discouraging for the patient and doctor alike. Most types of arthritis were considered untreatable and there was little to offer in the medicine chest – a misconception which is still prevalent. However, today there is greater understanding of the disease process and specific and effective therapies are available for most types of arthritis. What is even more is that it is now being recognized that the inflammatory fire kindled in the body by autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis may be the engine that drives many of the most feared illnesses of middle and old age like heart attack, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease etc.

Apart from specific treatments, a person afflicted with arthritis needs to follow self-help
strategies to manage the disease better in coordination with the healthcare provider.
Dr Christiaan Bernard, the famous cardiovascular surgeon who performed the
first successful human heart transplant himself suffered from arthritis, once said
“Control your arthritis, do not let it control you.”

Start Moving
Want to fight your arthritis? Get off the couch! Moving is the best medicine to fight arthritis pain.
Regular, moderate exercise offers a whole host of benefits to people with arthritis. Mainly, exercise reduces joint pain and stiffness, builds strong muscle around the joints, and increases flexibility and endurance. It reduces inflammation from arthritis and related conditions and lowers the risk of other chronic conditions. It also helps promote overall health and fitness by giving you more energy, helping you sleep better, controlling your weight, decreasing depression, and giving you more self-esteem. Furthermore, exercise can help stave off other health problems such as osteoporosis and heart disease.
So, it's obviously a no-brainer. You've got to move. But sometimes it's not so easy to get started. When you're achy and sore, the last thing you want to do is exercise.
The important thing to remember is to start slow and make it fun. It is always good to start with flexibility exercises, which are basically stretching exercises that will improve your range of motion and help you perform daily activities. Once you feel comfortable you can move on to weight training and endurance exercises such as bicycling.
Maintain your ideal body weight
The more you weigh the more stress you are putting on your joints, especially your hips, knees, back and feet. For every 1 lb lost, there is a 4 lb decrease in pressure on each knee.
Manage Pain
Just as there are different types of arthritis, there are also different types of pain. Even your own pain may vary from day to day.

Each person needs a pain management plan. What works for one person may not work for someone else. You may need to try several different treatments before you find the one that works for you.
Long-lasting pain, like the kind that accompanies osteoarthritis, is different. While it tells you that something is wrong, it often isn't as easy to relieve. Managing this type of pain is essential to enhance your quality of life and sense of well-being.
Many people with arthritis have found that by learning and practicing pain management skills, they can reduce their pain.
Get Healthy
One of the best ways you can manage your arthritis is by eating healthy and keeping your weight under control. When you eat right and stay fit, your body is in great shape to battle inflammation as well as keep extra pressure off painful joints.
The best way to start down the path of good nutrition and health is to make great choices when you sit down to eat. You don't have to go on a strict diet to gain benefits from good eating. Just choose the right foods in the right portions and much of the battle will be won. Keep reading for some easy ways to make some nutritional changes and advice on how to stay motivated when the going gets tough.
Make great mealtime choices
For most people, all you have to do is choose your foods wisely in order to keep extra weight off. No special diets are required!
For example, you should eat mostly fruits, vegetables, whole grains and high-fiber foods. In fact, two-thirds of your dinner plate should consist of vegetables and fruits like broccoli, tomatoes, cucumbers and carrots.
Portion control may be the most effective weight-loss strategy around. It beat out exercise, regular physical activity, fat reduction in diet, and eating more fruits and veggies for effectiveness, according to researchers. A study of 300 overweight people who were asked to practice five weight-loss strategies revealed that those who spent the most effort controlling portion size were most likely to lose weight and keep it off.
Don't drink your calories. Drinking even one sugar-sweetened soda a day can increase the risk of developing higher blood pressure and cholesterol. Quench your thirst with water instead.
Manage stress in healthy ways
Living with a chronic condition like arthritis/rheumatism can lead to emotional problems and significantly impact the quality of life. You may feel angry, frustrated, depressed or helpless because of your medical condition. Resist the temptation to handle stress in unhealthy ways — such as overeating, overindulging in alcohol, or taking drugs — that will only increase stress in the long run. Relaxation techniques like meditation can actually relieve pain, stress and depression.
Talk With Your Doctor
When you have arthritis, a great relationship with the right doctor can play a critical role in your treatment and the management of your pain and other symptoms. A good doctor-patient relationship is based on mutual respect and understanding.
You can start with your primary care physician who may end up referring you to a rheumatologist. A rheumatologist is an internist or pediatrician who has completed additional training in the diagnosis and treatment of arthritis and other diseases of the joints, muscles and bones. Many rheumatologists also conduct research to determine the cause and better treatment for arthritis and related diseases.
Dealing with arthritis can be a sometimes frustrating, always interesting journey. That's why it's important to have a knowledgeable and understanding doctor along for the ride.
Above all: Have faith in yourself!
The belief that you can change what you want to change, no matter what the circumstances, really can impact your success. Your level of self-belief helps determine how long you can stick with a diet or weight loss plan, even when you run into a bump in the road. Ask for encouragement from friends and family and find a realistic role model so you can tell yourself, "If she did it, I can, too!"

Dr Ashit Syngle, MD (PGI)
Director Healing Touch City Clinic
Senior Consultant Physician & Rheumatologist, Fortis Multispeciality Hospital

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