Arthritis Awareness Month: A Guide to Living With Arthritis
Living with arthritis can be frustrating and painful, keeping you from doing the things you want to do. During the month of May, we observe Arthritis Awareness Month in order to educate those living with the disease on how to treat symptoms and thrive.
This year, we’re using Arthritis Awareness Month as an opportunity to present our guide to living with arthritis. Don’t let this common health ailment define you. Instead, learn about different types of arthritis, popular natural treatment methods, and how to alleviate arthritis pain for a better quality of life.
Arthritis Awareness Month
Living with arthritis may feel overwhelming at first, but learning more about it can help you improve your daily life. Observed each May, Arthritis Awareness Month aims to educate and support the nearly 60 million Americans living with the disease. It’s so common that an estimated 1 in 4 adults is diagnosed with arthritis by their doctor.1
The Arthritis Foundation is a leading supporter of this month-long observation, stating that the best way to overcome arthritis is to understand the condition, learn the facts, and be aware of helpful methods to live your life the way you want.2
What Causes Arthritis?
So what causes arthritis? The truth is that there is no singular cause for arthritis. Each individual may experience a variety of potential catalysts that start its development. Some of the most common causes of arthritis to learn about during Arthritis Awareness Month include:
- Acute injuries that lead to degenerative arthritis
- Atypical metabolism that leads to other conditions like gout
- Autoimmune attacks from conditions such as lupus
- Genetic predisposition to arthritis, especially in the form of osteoarthritis
- Chronic infections like Lyme disease which may trigger the development of arthritis
When acute injuries are treated properly, you may avoid higher risks of developing arthritis. Unfortunately, however, there is no way to guarantee you’ll never develop this condition throughout your lifetime.
Different Types of Arthritis
Arthritis isn’t a singular disease. Instead, it’s an umbrella term encompassing more than 100 different conditions affecting the joints. The term “arthritis” most generally refers to joint pain or joint disease, causing stiffness, pain, and discomfort throughout different parts of the body. You can develop arthritis in your fingers, hands, knees, shoulders, ankles, and anywhere there are joints. Though often associated with age-related diseases, there are people of all ages and lifestyles living with arthritis.
Some of the most common types of arthritis to learn about this Arthritis Awareness Month are:
- Rheumatoid arthritis (RA)
- Psoriatic arthritis
- Reactive arthritis
- Infectious arthritis
- Gout (also called metabolic arthritis)
Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common type of arthritis. Once attributed to the normal wear-and-tear on the cartilage in joints, doctors now know it affects the entire joint, including the bones. As bones in affected joints get weaker, inflammation can arise, damaging the connective tissue and cartilage.
OA may also develop after different circumstances including injuries like a torn ACL or fracture, work-related damage from physically-intensive jobs, or lifestyle factors. Symptoms of osteoarthritis include stiffness, pain, loss of flexibility, and weakened strength in joints.
Bonus: Learn about joint recovery for athletes to minimize injury-related arthritis after this.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA)
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease that causes chronic inflammation of the joints. It is most commonly seen in middle-aged women but can occur at any age. RA occurs when the immune system mistakenly attacks the lining of the joints, resulting in inflammation, pain, and stiffness. Over time, this can lead to joint damage and physical deformity if left untreated.
The exact cause of RA is unknown, but it is believed to be a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Symptoms of RA include joint pain, stiffness, and swelling, particularly in the hands and feet.
Psoriatic arthritis is a type of arthritis that occurs in people with psoriasis, a chronic skin condition. It is estimated that up to 30% of people with psoriasis will develop psoriatic arthritis. There is no determined cause for psoriatic arthritis, but doctors believe it may be a combination of genetics and environment.
Similar to RA, symptoms of psoriatic arthritis can include joint pain, stiffness, and swelling, particularly in the fingers and toes. There may also be fatigue, swollen fingers or toes, and a reduced range of motion in the affected joints.
Reactive arthritis is a type of arthritis that occurs in response to an infection somewhere else in the body, most often the urinary tract or intestines. An example of how arthritis is much more than simply an age-related disease, reactive arthritis is most commonly experienced by young adults and can affect both men and women.
The exact cause of reactive arthritis remains unknown, but experts believe it may be triggered by an abnormal immune response to an infection. Symptoms of reactive arthritis include joint pain, swelling, and stiffness, particularly in the knees, ankles, and feet. There may also be redness, inflammation of the eyes, and painful urination.
Unlike many other forms of arthritis, reactive arthritis is relatively rare and often goes away on its own within 12 months.
Infectious arthritis, which is also called septic arthritis, is a type of arthritis caused by an infection in the joint. Oftentimes it develops due to an infection in another part of the body spreading to a joint (most commonly the knee). Infectious arthritis can be caused by bacteria, viruses, or fungi and is most commonly seen in older adults or people with weakened immune systems.
Symptoms of infectious arthritis can include joint pain, swelling, redness, and fever. While there are antibacterial and antifungal medications your doctor may prescribe to you, many infections go away within a few weeks. In some severe cases, you may need to have joint fluid drained to release the infected fluid from your body and reduce inflammation.
Gout is a type of arthritis that occurs when uric acid crystals accumulate in the joints, leading to inflammation and severe pain. It is most commonly seen in men over the age of 40, but it may also be seen in post-menopausal women.
The exact cause of gout is related to the body's inability to process uric acid properly, leading to its accumulation in the joints. Risk factors for gout include obesity, high blood pressure, kidney disease, and a family history of gout.
Gout attacks often occur suddenly and can be triggered by factors such as alcohol, red meat, seafood, and high-fructose corn syrup. Some people may only ever experience one gout attack while others never show symptoms at all. For people who have multiple gout attacks, a doctor may prescribe medication to lower uric acid.
How to Treat Arthritis Pain Naturally
While medical treatments may help (or be necessary in more severe cases), there are a number of methods for how to treat arthritis pain naturally you may want to try. These methods for alleviating pain complement activities for arthritis treatment at home and may improve your overall quality of life day to day. Living with arthritis doesn’t mean you have to resign yourself to chronic discomfort.
As part of the goal of Arthritis Awareness Month, learn how to treat arthritis pain naturally with a few simple lifestyle changes such as:
- Maintaining a healthy weight: Excess weight can put stress on joints, leading to increased pain and inflammation. Maintaining a healthy weight can help reduce the pressure on joints and alleviate pain from arthritis.
- Anti-inflammatory diet: Eating anti-inflammatory foods can help reduce arthritis pain. These foods include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and seeds. Foods that are high in sugar, saturated fat, and refined carbohydrates should be avoided.
- Exercise: Regular exercise can help increase mobility and flexibility in your joints and reduce arthritis pain.
- Heat and cold therapy: Applying heat or cold to affected joints can help alleviate pain and reduce inflammation. Heat can be applied using a heating pad or using a heated zero gravity chair for optimal effectiveness. Cold therapy can be applied using a cold compress or ice pack wrapped in a towel.
- Stress relief techniques: Stress relief techniques such as meditation, yoga, and tai chi can help reduce stress and alleviate arthritis pain. Zero gravity meditation combines the benefits of meditation with the plethora of potential health benefits of zero gravity chairs.
Learning how to treat arthritis pain naturally is all about keeping joints healthy. Finding unique ways to combine methods can make living with arthritis much easier. For example, recovery tools like zero gravity chairs are safe for all ages and lifestyles while providing a plethora of potential health benefits.
One of the primary benefits of zero gravity chairs is better blood circulation. This helps improve joint health while reducing inflammation throughout the body. Other benefits of using a zero gravity chair for arthritis pain may include boosts to your immune system, alleviating excess pressure on joints, and providing a relaxing place for stress relief. All of these factors are often connected to how to treat arthritis pain naturally by experts. Bonus features of zero gravity chairs like massage and heat therapy enhance the experience further and will make living with arthritis much more manageable.
Arthritis Awareness Month is observed in May but is meant to educate those living with arthritis and create a better quality of life year-round. Knowing what type of arthritis you have, what may have caused it, and how to treat arthritis pain naturally will have you back on your feet. Living with arthritis doesn’t have to be awful. Speak with your doctor and integrate our tips into your daily routine to experience the difference for yourself.
Curious about getting a zero gravity chair for arthritis pain relief? Compare zero gravity chair models to determine which is right for you this Arthritis Awareness Month.
Additional Sources and References