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Think arthritis only affects the elderly? Think again!

Think arthritis only affects the elderly? Think again!

By 2030, an estimated 580 million people worldwide, aged 18 and older, will have been diagnosed with the disease. Pretty eye-opening, right?

While there are hundreds of different manifestations of arthritis, there are two primary kinds – rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. “Currently, two million Australians suffer from osteoarthritis, and nearly half a million Australians struggle with rheumatoid arthritis,” says Errol Lim, APA musculoskeletal and sports physiotherapist. Rheumatoid arthritis is often considered an inflammatory or autoimmune disease and osteoarthritis is typically thought of as the result of “wear and tear” and injury to the joints.

Drop the kilos and lose the pain

“Two in three people who have osteoarthritis are women,” says Errol. The good news? “70% of osteoarthritis is preventable by avoiding excessive weight gain and joint injuries such as sporting injuries,” says Errol, “the greatest evidence shows that weight loss has the largest effect on pain and function for those suffering with osteoarthritis.”

Medicine has your back

“Many people suffering with rheumatoid arthritis go undiagnosed. If you or your GP suspect that you may have this condition, it is important to see an arthritis specialist doctor called a Rheumatologist. They will be able to confirm the diagnosis and then decide which medications may be appropriate. A combination of therapies such as physiotherapy, exercise physiology, diet and nutrition can also play a role in aiding those with pain and fatigue,” says Errol.

Seek support

“For osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, as well as many other chronic conditions where people have had symptoms for a long period of time, factors such as stress, anxiety, depression, poor sleep and fatigue have an effect on making things worse or feel worse. Seeking advice and receiving support from psychologists, counsellors, support networks and other health professionals can help significantly,” says Errol.

Heal the gut, heal the joints

You may have heard some talk about gut health – and the gut-brain connection – and you’ve probably heard the word “microbiome,” or the friendly bacteria in your body. Some studies have confirmed that causes arthritis can lurk in your digestive system. So, to heal your joints, you must first heal your gut. But where do you start? The best first step is to take a probiotic daily to help remove the harmful microbes that might be causing your symptoms.

Eat a hearty breakfast

We have all heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day – and this may be especially true for arthritis patients. Studies have found that eating a diet rich in fibre can have a positive impact on chronic inflammatory joint diseases as well as musculoskeletal conditions, while also helping to build stronger bones.

Keep moving

“It can be very difficult to maintain a fitness regime with these diseases especially if one has had symptoms for a very long time,” says Errol, “the key is to not try to do too much at one time even if you are feeling good but it’s important to pace yourself. A general rule if attempting to start an exercise program again after a long lay-off is to start with a small amount and then try to increase the amount of activity you do by 10% each week.”

Next steps

“Seek the appropriate advice and help from a trusted health professional. The earlier you know what you are dealing with, the better placed you are in receiving the most appropriate management. Arthritis can be debilitating and if you have had symptoms for a while, it can be lonely making you more anxious, stressed and/or depressed. There are many people who unfortunately also have the disease – you are not alone. Apart from there being support networks which can play a big role, physiotherapists have a range of treatments that can help significantly to reduce pain, reduce fatigue and improve your ability to do what you want to do,” Errol says.