The pressure of coping with arthritis can really ratchet up your stress and anxiety – a condition that affects as many as 1 in 3 people with arthritis. And that, in turn, can worsen the symptoms of chronic diseases and contribute to a host of other problems.
“When we are stressed or perceive a threat, our body responds with physiologic responses that prepare us to fight or escape the enemy,” says Rudy Nydegger, PhD, a clinical psychologist and professor emeritus at Union Graduate College in Schenectady, N.Y. “Our heart rate and breathing speed up, our muscles tense and blood flow to the brain increases, putting us in a state of high awareness.”
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In a 2015 Gallup poll of more than 5,400 Americans, 60 percent believed chiropractic is an effective treatment for neck and back pain. It’s true that chiropractors manipulate, or adjust, the spine to improve pain and mobility, but the benefits may extend beyond the back. By using varying degrees of force in an effort to adjust misaligned joints, chiropractors try to improve the relationship between the spine and nervous system, which they believe may affect the function of all the organs and systems in the body.
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One of several nondrug pain treatments for arthritis, acupuncture involves inserting fine needles into specific points on the body. The goal is to correct imbalances in the flow of life energy – called chi or qi – thereby stimulating healing. Traditional Chinese medicine describes more than 2,000 acupuncture points (acupoints) connected to 12 main energy channels.
In the West, acupuncture is mainly associated with pain relief, but the 3,000-year-old practice is a complex and comprehensive system of medicine that emphasizes healing the mind and spirit as well as the body.
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Massage is one of the most popular healing practices and has proven beneficial for many people with arthritis. Dozens of massage techniques exist, ranging from gentle to intense, but almost all aim to ease stress and sore muscles. For some, it’s also a way to connect and communicate with another human being and feel safe and comforted.
Tiffany Field, PhD, director of the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami School of Medicine, has conducted many studies on the benefits of massage for adults and children with arthritis. Her research has repeatedly shown that moderate-pressure massage can lead to improved pain, stiffness, range of motion, hand grip strength and overall function in people with OA, RA and fibromyalgia.
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For many years, people have claimed that certain foods in their diet reduced pain and joint inflammation from arthritis. Researchers continue to investigate whether foods and spices actually may play a role in relieving joint pain and, if so, how they work.
“Mostly it’s just healthy eating, with a lot of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds,” says registered dietitian Ruth Frechman, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Continue reading 6 Food Choices to Help Ease Arthritis Pain
Wouldn’t it be great if you could just snap your fingers and know you’d never gain weight as you grow older? Unfortunately, it’s not going to happen. Exercise, cutting calories and smart eating are mandatory if you want to sail through your later years without putting on extra pounds.
The good news is, unless you are obese or have health issues, you don’t necessarily have to embark on special diets to keep extra weight at bay. All you have to do is choose your foods wisely. Ideally, you should make smart eating decisions before you put anything in your mouth.
Follow these recommendations from Larry Tucker, PhD, an obesity researcher and professor in the department of exercise sciences at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. They will help you avoid the numerous temptations we all face every day, from the birthday cake at the office party to Sunday brunch with the in-laws.
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Do you keep ginger in your spice cabinet? Maybe it should be in your medicine cabinet. Besides being a tasty spice often used to enhance holiday treats, ginger can soothe upset stomachs and diminish nausea, and studies show it may help pain and inflammation, too.
In fact, a University of Miami study concluded that ginger extract could one day be a substitute to nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). The study compared the effects of a highly concentrated ginger extract to placebo in 247 patients with osteoarthritis (OA) of the knee. The ginger reduced pain and stiffness in knee joints by 40 percent over the placebo.
“Research shows that ginger affects certain inflammatory processes at a cellular level,” says the study’s lead author, Roy Altman, MD, now at the University of California, Los Angeles.
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Neck pain is one of the most frequent pain conditions, second only to back pain – with a reported 30-50% of adults experiencing it. And those living with arthritis know all too well the discomfort that can come from simply shaking their head Yes or No.
However, according to research done at the University of Miami School of Medicine, daily self-massage, coupled with regular massages from a therapist, can reduce neck pain caused by arthritis.
Participants in the study, who were already diagnosed with neck pain due to arthritis, received weekly moderate pressure massages, along with directions on how to complete those same massages on themselves daily.
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Soaking in warm water, with or without minerals, is one of the oldest forms of medicine. And there’s good reason why this practice has stood the test of time. Research has shown it works wonders for all kinds of musculoskeletal complaints, including fibromyalgia, arthritis and low back pain.
“Water is wonderful,” says Carol Huegel, a physical therapist with ReQuest Physical Therapy, Gainesville, Fla. Huegel says submersion aids sore joints three ways: It reduces the force of gravity that’s compressing the joint; offers 360-degree support for sore limbs (almost like an Ace bandage); and can increase circulation and decrease inflammation. And Huegel says its moist heat is more penetrating than the dry heat you’d get from a heating pad.
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If your joints start to ache after a long day, try warming them up instead of popping a pill. Heat relaxes the muscles around painful joints and increases blood circulation, which can help you feel better fast. When a hot bath or shower isn’t convenient, try one of these options.
Electric Heating Pad
How It Works: Plug it in, wrap in cloth, apply for 20 minutes.
Best For: “They’re one of the best ways to heat a large body part – a hip, back, shoulder, knee – especially before activities like stretching,” says Doreen M. Stiskal, PhD, department of physical therapy chair at Seton Hall University in South Orange, New Jersey.
Pros: They’re easy to use and store; heat up quickly.
Continue reading Bring on the Heat for Joint Pain Relief