womans handsThe pain associated with arthritis can affect many areas of your life, including the physical, emotional and social aspects.

Arthritis, one of the most common chronic conditions, affects the joints and connective tissues of more than one in four Americans. Symptoms generally include pain and stiffness in and around joints of the body. Types include osteoarthritis (OA), rheumatoid arthritis (RA), fibromyalgia, gout and childhood arthritis.

 

Processing pain

The way we process and react to pain is shaped by a number of factors, such as:

  • Genes: Some people are more sensitive to pain.
  • Gender: Women are diagnosed more often than men with chronic pain, which can be more severe.
  • Age: Managing pain can be more difficult as we get older.
  • Personality: Factors such as a sense of humor, independence and cheerfulness can affect pain.

Medicating arthritis

Medications reducing inflammation will help reduce your pain. Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) treat RA, ankylosing spondylitis and psoriatic arthritis. There are three types of DMARDs, each of which works in different ways to combat arthritis:

  • Traditional DMARDs: Can take several weeks to take effect but have a broad immune-suppressing effect.
  • Targeted DMARDs: Work on specific parts of the inflammatory process.
  • Biologics: These work faster than traditional or targeted DMARDs, targeting specific stages of the inflammation and immune response.

Food fight against arthritis

A diet rich in fish, fruit, vegetables, beans and nuts – sometimes known as the Mediterranean diet – can do wonders to stave off arthritic and other types of pain and inflammation.

In addition to fighting arthritis due to its anti-inflammatory properties, the diet is believed to lower blood pressure, fight cancer and stroke and lead to weight loss, which helps manage joint pain.

Here are some serving recommendations from agencies such as the United States Department of Agriculture and the American Heart Association.

  • Fish: 3-4 ounces twice a week. Research shows taking fish oil supplements can reduce joint pain and morning stiffness duration for those with rheumatoid arthritis
  • Nuts and seeds:5 ounces daily (an ounce is about one handful). Try walnuts, almonds and pine nuts
  • Fruits and vegetables: Try for nine servings daily. Reach for antioxidant superstars like blueberries, cherries, spinach, broccoli and kale.
  • Beans: One cup, at least twice a week. Go for red beans, pinto beans and red kidney beans.
  • Whole grains: At least three ounces a day (one slice of bread is one once). Seek out foods containing the whole grain kernel, such as oatmeal, brown rice, quinoa and whole-wheat flour.