Joint pain – now there’s a huge topic. In the words that follow I shall be saying the word arthritis quite a lot! The most common form is osteoarthritis (where a minor injury can spark off a healing process, which leads to fluid, more bone growth, degeneration of cartilage and some nerve endings that won’t behave). Then there’s rheumatoid arthritis (here the immune system affects the joints causing pain and swelling) – this, together with gout, are two examples of inflammatory arthritis.
What steps can we take? Here’s two things which need careful watching. Smoking affects the density of bones and alcohol can stimulate production of uric acid crystals which make gout so painful. Of course it’s a no-brainer that keeping our weight down is also going to put much less pressure on joints but minimising certain foods can also help alleviate the condition. You’re all going to roll your eyes, because they’re our old friends – sugar, red meat, processed foods and refined carbohydrates. I can almost feel your shoulders slump forward in despair. Look, eating purer and …forgive this word…’cleaner’ is always going to be better for our health. Always. Swap the rubbish sugar snacks for nuts, the good fat in those will be a real tonic for the joints.
Likewise oily fish and olive oil (not a low-calorie spray, Lord knows what’s lurking in that) will boost skin quality and joints. These are essential fats and are just that. Essential. Add to that plenty of green vegetables, lots of pulses and wholegrains and you’ll be giving yourself the best chance of avoiding, or at least managing as pain-free as possible, the whole arthritis business. There is some hearsay that the nightshade family of vegetables (tomatoes, potatoes, aubergines and peppers) can aggravate joint pain but there is very little documented evidence, with the exception of tomatoes. These seemingly may increase uric acid production. It’s best to experiment and find out for yourself.
I haven’t said one word about exercise have I? Well of course, that’s top of the prescription. Resistance training will strengthen tendons and ligaments as well as muscles so aim for 2 sessions per week. Stretching is also important (just google gentle yoga and see what free workouts come up!) and walking with poles is also of huge value to your mobility, strength and cv fitness.
(originally written by Annie for Woman magazine October 2022).
Photo courtesy of John Hopkins Medicine