Sep 19, 2021
Maintaining healthy joints is critical to making the most of life after 60. Unfortunately, no matter how gracefully they age, few people are immune to joint aches and pains. There are over 100 different types of arthritis that can cause pain, swelling, stiffness, and restricted movement.
Arthritis literally means “joint inflammation.” The most common is osteoarthritis (OA), with one in every two people over the age of 60 showing X-ray evidence of the condition. It is an active process in which the cartilage protecting the bone ends weakens and flakes away, and is often referred to as ‘wear and tear.’
This allows synovial fluid, the joint’s “oil,” to leak into the underlying bone, resulting in mild inflammation. As a result of the swelling, the joint space narrows. The bone ends may eventually rub together, causing increased pain, stiffness, and deformity.
The second most common type of arthritis is rheumatoid arthritis (RA). This is an autoimmune disorder in which immune cells attack the synovial membrane that lines certain joints, particularly the wrists, hands, and feet. Inflammation gradually spreads to other tissues, causing vision problems, weight loss, fever, and exhaustion. Here are some things you can do to reduce the severity of arthritis.
Regardless of the type of arthritis you have, try to lose any excess weight. The overall force across your knees when walking or standing increases by two to three pounds for every extra pound of fat you carry. Carrying 10 pounds of extra fat increases the force on your knees by up to 30 pounds. Excess fat, particularly around your midsection, secretes substances that increase inflammation and can aggravate pain and stiffness.
Joints benefit from the same nutritious diet as your heart and brain. So eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, wholegrains, and oily fish. Salmon, fresh tuna, mackerel, herrings, sardines, and pilchards are all examples. It is also critical to consume enough fluid to keep the joints hydrated.
If you have RA, a plant-based diet can help you reduce the number of tender and swollen joints, pain, morning stiffness, and grip strength. Vitamin D intake appears to be important as well.
Regular exercise helps to strengthen muscles and keep joints mobile. If your joints are in pain, non-weight bearing exercises like cycling and swimming are preferable to walking. Hydrotherapy, which involves exercising in a warm, deep pool, produces excellent results. Tai Chi can also help older people with knee osteoarthritis reduce pain and stiffness. A physiotherapist can recommend exercises that you can do at home. Exercise-related pain can also be alleviated with the use of hot or cold packs.
Topical treatments that penetrate the skin to relieve pain in underlying joints are at least as effective as oral pain relievers and carry a lower risk of side effects. In my experience, the most effective are glucosamine gels, celedrin creams, comfrey ointments, green-lipped mussel gels, and Voltarol gel.
Different people react differently to anti-inflammatory supplements. The best advice is to give them two months before deciding whether you need to try something else.
Fish oils contain EPA and DHA, two long-chain omega-3 fatty acids that are converted in the body into substances that reduce inflammation, joint pain, and swelling. A number of studies have shown that they can reduce the need for prescribed painkillers in people with OS and RA. If you eat fish on a regular basis, a daily dose of 500mg to 1g is ideal. If you eat fish infrequently, higher doses are required for a good anti-inflammatory effect.
While glucosamine and chondroitin were once thought to simply act as building blocks for new cartilage and to make synovial fluid more cushioning, they are now known to reduce inflammation, suppress enzymes that breakdown cartilage, and act as biological signals to stimulate joint repair in osteoarthritis. Begin with 1500mg glucosamine per day and gradually increase to 1200mg chondroitin if glucosamine alone does not provide adequate relief.
Turmeric is an Ayurvedic medicine that is used to treat arthritis. A recent study involving over 360 people confirms that turmeric is as effective as prescribed anti-inflammatory drugs in reducing knee pain and stiffness, but with far fewer side effects.
Other supplements, such as Devil’s claw, MSM, and rose hip extracts, are available, but most people will notice a significant improvement from using a topical cream/gel and taking a fish oil supplement, along with glucosamine (with or without chondroitin) and/or turmeric. My knee twinges have gone away since I started taking turmeric!