Many arthritis medications are available over the counter or can be prescribed by the family doctor.
Yet, there are sometimes concerns about the safety of these medications for some patients, especially those at higher risk for side effects and dangerous drug interactions. Surgical options may be best for some patients, but they are not always the right first step for every patient.
At Orthopedic Associates, “We have advanced medical and surgical options to help you manage your arthritis pain. We also recognize that there are many approaches to improving your pain without those tools. Let us help you determine if you are a candidate for a lifestyle approach. Many lifestyle options have been studied and shown to have benefit.”
‘Food as Medicine’
We all like to eat, and the tasty Mediterranean Diet is quite enjoyable as well. Fiber is also present in many of these foods. It has been shown to have an anti-inflammatory effect by lowering body weight and feeding beneficial bacteria living in the gut.
- Fish or fish oil – Arthritis experts recommend more than the three to four ounces twice a week as recommended by the American Heart Association. Salmon, tuna, mackerel, sardines, herring, anchovies and scallops are good choices. Fish oil can be substituted if you don’t like fish.
- Nuts and Seeds – eat about 1.5 oz (a handful and a half) of these monounsaturated fat filled treats.
- Fruits and Veggies – try for 9 or more servings daily – focused on citrus fruits and red and purple fruits such as cherries and berries. For veggies, focus on vitamin K rich dark vegetables such as spinach, kale, and broccoli. There is even “Supercharged Broccoli” shown to slow arthritis.
- Olive Oil – Two to three tablespoons daily of extra-virgin olive oil. Also avocado, safflower and walnut oils
- Beans – about one cup, twice a week (or more). Best choices include red kidney beans, small red beans, and pinto beans
- Whole Grains of all varieties. Celiacs (people sensitive to gluten) will need to avoid wheat, rye, barley, and oats processed with wheat
Both extra weight and extra fat can worsen osteoarthritis. The good news is that the weight loss doesn’t have to be drastic to have a positive impact.
Recent research in the medical journal JAMA showed that losing only 10 percent of starting body weight helped heavy adults. They had significantly reduced knee pain, improved mobility, and they could walk faster.
The first strategy is going to be healthy eating as noted above. A low-calorie diet (Mediterranean or not) and a generally high-fiber diet can help with weight loss.
Avoid unnecessary calories such as alcohol. This is especially important if you are already taking certain anti-inflammatory drugs. Some interact with alcohol to damage your liver.
Keep a food diary to keep track of your choices and your results and if you need extra help, consider working with a dietician or nutritionist.
It is important to avoid foods such as sugar and refined carbohydrates as well as MSG and saturated fats.
Finally, don’t overlook hypothyroidism. Some of your weight problems and joint pain could be related.
‘Fitness and Muscular Joint Support’
Joint-friendly workouts are the way to go. Consider swimming, water aerobics, recumbent biking, and walking.
Strength training is also a MUST. For at home workouts consider an exercise ball, therapeutic bands, and dumbbells.
The advantage of a gym membership is access to resistance machines and personal trainers. They can help keep you motivated and make sure you are using safe techniques. Start with 5-10 minutes three times a week.
We can refer you for even more expert guidance on your strengthening and supporting routine. Our partner SSM Physical Therapy is right inside our Orthopedic Associate’s facility outside of St. Louis.
‘More Advanced Options’
Let us know if you have already tried a joint friendly diet, weight control and exercise. If you are still frustrated, we are happy to do a further review to discuss the options.
Many prescription pain medications provide better pain control than high doses of OTC painkillers and may also have fewer side effects.
Sometimes the disease is so advanced that it is not possible to achieve the needed exercise. Weight gain becomes more likely than weight loss while the pain and damage speed up.
This is where surgery can literally be life-saving. Many people can regain much of their mobility. This leads to increased vitality and quality of life and a lowered risk for other diseases associated with a sedentary lifestyle.
No matter what approach you are considering, we know that our orthopedic doctors have something to offer!