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  • Writer's pictureStaci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD

Top ten tips for bone and joint health during Arthritis Awareness Month

May is Arthritis Awareness Month. And there is no better way to celebrate this health holiday than to talk about how you can support your bone and joint health. With arthritis, managing symptoms is more than just drinking milk daily to keep your bones strong. Read below to learn about the top ten ways you can support your bone and joint health to manage or prevent arthritis today.


Fast facts about arthritis


There are two major types of arthritis: osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common type. It involves cartilage, or the cushioning tissue between joints to break down (1,2). Over time, this can cause pain since bone starts rubbing against bone. Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) on the other hand, is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks the joints, including the lining of the joints (1,2).


Osteoarthritis affects mostly the hands, spine, hips, and knees, while RA mostly affects joints in the spine, hands, and feet. In both types of arthritis, inflammation is the major player. That is why the key to managing or reducing risk of developing arthritis, you should focus on ways you can decrease inflammation in your daily lifestyle behaviors. Read below to learn about ten of such anti-inflammatory behaviors that you can apply to your daily life to help best prevent or manage arthritis.


Top ten tips for managing or preventing arthritis



1.) Consume a Mediterranean Diet.

The Mediterranean diet is well-known for its heart healthy benefits. This eating routine is full of fruits and vegetables, lean meats, fish, healthy fats, and whole grains. Such foods, especially the healthy fats, show promise to help reduce risk of rheumatoid arthritis as well as heart disease (3,4,5).


In fact, a 2023 study shows that omega-3 fatty acids can help relieve pain and improve joint function in those with osteoarthritis (6). Omega-3 fatty acid is an antioxidant that helps reduce the cell damage caused by free radicals that can lead to inflammation and chronic disease. Eating more omega-3 fatty acids from fatty fish like salmon and trout as well as olive oil, nuts, and seeds can help you reduce inflammation in your body and in turn can help manage or even prevent arthritis symptoms.


2.) Control Blood Sugar

Recent research shows that those with rheumatoid arthritis are more likely to develop diabetes. This is no surprise to researchers since both conditions are inflammation-based in origin (7). Therefore, in order to manage symptoms of RA, a 2022 team of researchers suggest that those at risk for or with RA should take care to manage their blood glucose levels to manage symptoms and prevent the condition from worsening (8). They say it's not necessary for those with RA to reduce sugar intake severely, but they should monitor their blood glucose levels to avoid "the deteriorating excess glucose effect in chronic inflammation" that could negatively impact glucose metabolism in the body (9).


You can control blood sugar levels by visiting your doctor on a regular basis to have blood glucose levels checked. Consuming more fiber in your everyday routine to help stabilize blood glucose levels (10). This fiber is found in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains like oats and rice.





3.) Engage in exercise regularly

Early studies on the connection between low-impact exercise and arthritis shows that such exercise can reduce inflammation in the body (11,12). Any exercise in long duration may help reduce chronic inflammation (13). Therefore, try to add in movement throughout your day as much as possible such as walking, working around your home, or dancing, for example. Also, adding in resistance training such as resistance bands exercises or free weight exercises, for example, can help strengthen bones (14). This in turn, may help manage symptoms of arthritis.


4.) Maintain good posture

Research shows that poor posture such as slumping over, for example, is linked to musculoskeletal pain (15). Experts suggest that by teaching those with chronic pain issues such as arthritis how to be aware of their posture, they can help reduce their pain.


5.) Quit smoking or don't start

This one is a no-brainer. Smoking of any kind, cigarettes, marijuana, vaping, cigars, etc. all cause inflammation in the body that can lead to chronic diseases like cancer. Therefore, if you smoke, you are also more likely to have bone and joint issues that are inflammation-based. Research shows that smoking can negatively impact the immune system and can in turn increase risk of RA which is an autoimmune condition (16,17).


Therefore, if you smoke, then try to quit using resources provided by your doctor or through resources through https://smokefree.gov/.


6.) Visit your doctor regularly.

It's important to visit your doctor each year or twice yearly if needed to check your bone and joint health. They can prescribe medicine for you as needed or refer you to physical therapy to help manage your symptoms. Not only that, but they can check your labs for blood glucose levels to make sure that you keep your metabolic health in control since, as you read earlier, such numbers are related to increased risk of arthritis.


7.) Try turmeric

A recent study shows that turmeric intake may help reduce pain in those with knee OA (18). Turmeric




comes from the root of the curcumin plant. Curcumin is a polyphenol, or type of antioxidant which holds anti-inflammatory properties. You can take turmeric in a supplement form, or you can consume it as a spice on food, in tea, or in condiments like mustard.


8.) Massage the pain away

Experts from the arthritis foundation suggest massage therapy for those with arthritis to help reduce pain. Research supports this by showing that massage can help reduce pain and stiffness as well as improve function in those with knee OA (19). Not to mention that other research shows that Swedish massage may help reduce pain and may help lower the need for painkillers in those with RA (20).


9.) Lower stress levels

Perceived distress is linked to inflammatory arthritis symptoms, according to a 2020 study (21). Not to mention that anxiety and depression has been linked to more negative outcomes in those with RA (22). Therefore, it can benefit those with arthritis to develop a support system of friends, loved ones, doctors, and counselors to help them reduce emotional and mental stress in their life, so they can in turn reduce their physical stress from arthritis.


10.) Add yoga to your routine

Early studies show that yoga may help reduce pain in those with low back and cervical pain (23,24). More studies need to be done to see if this benefit may be applied to those with arthritis. However, at the very least, yoga can help reduce emotional and mental stress in arthritis patients, which may in turn help manage symptoms.


References:


  1. Arthritis Foundation (last accessed May 7, 2024) "What is Arthritis?" https://www.arthritis.org/health-wellness/about-arthritis/understanding-arthritis/what-is-arthritis

  2. Mayo Clinic (last accessed May 7, 2024) "Arthritis." https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/arthritis/symptoms-causes/syc-20350772

  3. Deng, W., Yi, Z., Yin, E. et al. Effect of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids supplementation for patients with osteoarthritis: a meta-analysis. J Orthop Surg Res 18, 381 (2023). https://doi.org/10.1186/s13018-023-03855-w

  4. Martínez-González, M. Á., & Hernández Hernández, A. (2024). Effect of the Mediterranean diet in cardiovascular prevention. Revista espanola de cardiologia (English ed.), S1885-5857(24)00043-4. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rec.2024.01.006

  5. Johansson, K., Askling, J., Alfredsson, L., Di Giuseppe, D., & EIRA study group (2018). Mediterranean diet and risk of rheumatoid arthritis: a population-based case-control study. Arthritis research & therapy, 20(1), 175. https://doi.org/10.1186/s13075-018-1680-2

  6. Cordingley, D. M., & Cornish, S. M. (2022). Omega-3 Fatty Acids for the Management of Osteoarthritis: A Narrative Review. Nutrients, 14(16), 3362. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu14163362

  7. Zhou, Q., Liu, J., Xin, L., Hu, Y., & Qi, Y. (2024). Systemic inflammation response index as an emerging biomarker in osteoarthritis patients: a bibliometric and large sample retrospective investigation. Clinical and experimental rheumatology, 42(1), 92–103. https://doi.org/10.55563/clinexprheumatol/tygnk6

  8. Masuko K. (2022). Glucose as a Potential Key to Fuel Inflammation in Rheumatoid Arthritis. Nutrients, 14(11), 2349. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu14112349

  9. Tian, Z., Mclaughlin, J., Verma, A., Chinoy, H., & Heald, A. H. (2021). The relationship between rheumatoid arthritis and diabetes mellitus: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Cardiovascular endocrinology & metabolism, 10(2), 125–131. https://doi.org/10.1097/XCE.0000000000000244

  10. Reynolds, A. N., Akerman, A. P., & Mann, J. (2020). Dietary fibre and whole grains in diabetes management: Systematic review and meta-analyses. PLoS medicine, 17(3), e1003053. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1003053

  11. Clarke, J. Exercise exerts anti-inflammatory effects on muscle via the JAK–STAT pathway. Nat Rev Rheumatol 17, 127 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41584-021-00581-7

  12. González-Chávez, S. A., López-Loeza, S. M., Acosta-Jiménez, S., Cuevas-Martínez, R., Pacheco-Silva, C., Chaparro-Barrera, E., & Pacheco-Tena, C. (2023). Low-Intensity Physical Exercise Decreases Inflammation and Joint Damage in the Preclinical Phase of a Rheumatoid Arthritis Murine Model. Biomolecules, 13(3), 488. https://doi.org/10.3390/biom13030488

  13. Rose, G. L., Skinner, T. L., Mielke, G. I., & Schaumberg, M. A. (2021). The effect of exercise intensity on chronic inflammation: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of science and medicine in sport, 24(4), 345–351. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jsams.2020.10.004

  14. Wen, Z., & Chai, Y. (2021). Effectiveness of resistance exercises in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis: A meta-analysis. Medicine, 100(13), e25019. https://doi.org/10.1097/MD.0000000000025019

  15. Cramer, H., Mehling, W. E., Saha, F. J., Dobos, G., & Lauche, R. (2018). Postural awareness and its relation to pain: validation of an innovative instrument measuring awareness of body posture in patients with chronic pain. BMC musculoskeletal disorders, 19(1), 109. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12891-018-2031-9

  16. Saint-André, V., Charbit, B., Biton, A., Rouilly, V., Possémé, C., Bertrand, A., Rotival, M., Bergstedt, J., Patin, E., Albert, M. L., Quintana-Murci, L., Duffy, D., & Milieu Intérieur Consortium (2024). Smoking changes adaptive immunity with persistent effects. Nature, 626(8000), 827–835. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-023-06968-8

  17. Zhang, X., Zhang, X., Yang, Y., Zhi, K., Chen, Y., Zhao, J., Cui, W., Zhao, X., Zhang, Z., An, Y., & Cao, W. (2023). Association between passive smoking and the risk of rheumatoid arthritis: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Clinical rheumatology, 42(3), 663–672. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10067-022-06433-3

  18. Paultre, K., Cade, W., Hernandez, D., Reynolds, J., Greif, D., & Best, T. M. (2021). Therapeutic effects of turmeric or curcumin extract on pain and function for individuals with knee osteoarthritis: a systematic review. BMJ open sport & exercise medicine, 7(1), e000935. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmjsem-2020-000935

  19. Qiling Wu, Jie Zhao, Weili Guo (2022) "Efficacy of massage therapy in improving outcomes in knee osteoarthritis: A systematic review and meta-analysis," Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, Volume 46, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ctcp.2021.101522.

  20. Farideh Sahraei, Zahra Rahemi, Zohreh Sadat, Batool Zamani, Neda Mirbagher Ajorpaz, Mohamad Afshar, Elaheh Mianehsaz. (2022) "The effect of Swedish massage on pain in rheumatoid arthritis patients: A randomized controlled trial," Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, Volume 46, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ctcp.2021.101524.

  21. Polinski, K. J., Bemis, E. A., Feser, M., Seifert, J., Demoruelle, M. K., Striebich, C. C., Brake, S., O'Dell, J. R., Mikuls, T. R., Weisman, M. H., Gregersen, P. K., Keating, R. M., Buckner, J., Nicassio, P., Holers, V. M., Deane, K. D., & Norris, J. M. (2020). Perceived Stress and Inflammatory Arthritis: A Prospective Investigation in the Studies of the Etiologies of Rheumatoid Arthritis Cohort. Arthritis care & research, 72(12), 1766–1771. https://doi.org/10.1002/acr.24085

  22. Diederik De Cock, Michaël Doumen, Charlotte Vervloesem, Annelies Van Breda, Delphine Bertrand, Sofia Pazmino, René Westhovens, Patrick Verschueren (2022) "Psychological stress in rheumatoid arthritis: a systematic scoping review," Seminars in Arthritis and Rheumatism, Volume 55, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.semarthrit.2022.152014.

  23. Crevelário de Melo, R., Victoria Ribeiro, A. Â., Luquine Jr, C. D., de Bortoli, M. C., Toma, T. S., & Barreto, J. O. M. (2021). Effectiveness and safety of yoga to treat chronic and acute pain: a rapid review of systematic reviews. BMJ Open, 11(12), e048536. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmjopen-2020-048536

  24. Chawla, V., Brems, C., Freeman, H., Ravindran, A., & Noordsy, D. L. (2023). The Future of Yoga for Mental Health Care. International journal of yoga, 16(1), 38–41. https://doi.org/10.4103/ijoy.ijoy_25_23

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