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Home Health Education Living With Joint Pain
Weight Loss and Diet: Back to Basics for Relieving Arthritis Pain Print E-mail

Arthritis medications, remedies and cure-alls seem a dime-a-dozen these days. New studies appear almost daily proclaiming promises for future relief. While these treatments may be a far-off dream, methods of combating arthritis are readily available and accessible. Some of these approaches are often overlooked or underestimated. These are not miracle cures, but they can go a long way toward reducing arthritis symptoms, delaying surgical options and getting us closer to a normal lifestyle. Among these options are diet and exercise.

If you are overweight, it can be an obstacle to pain relief. "Obesity exacerbates pain and functionality. You are exerting two times your body weight on the back, knees and hips with each step you take", says Carol Henderson, PhD, RD; Assistant Professor, Department of Nutrition at Georgia State University. Henderson points out that your risk of developing osteoarthritis is four times greater if you are obese. Furthermore, men who reached normal weight decreased their rate of developing osteoarthritis by over 21% and women decreased their rate by 35%.

Don't let this give you the idea that you have to lose 30 or 40 pounds to make a difference. You don't necessarily have to go on a major diet or spend hours in the gym to get relief. In fact, it may take less effort than you anticipated. Henderson says losing only 11 pounds can reduce the risk of osteoarthritis over a ten year period by as much as 50%.

There are clear benefits to reducing your weight. So, why not diet without the exercise? It is now generally understood that exercise in conjunction with a healthy diet can lead to significantly greater weight loss than diet alone. This is not the only benefit. Unlike other body tissues, there are no blood vessels that bring nutrients to the cartilage in your joints. Instead, joints are surrounded by synovial fluid, a substance that passes over the joint delivering nutrients which are absorbed by the cartilage. Without this feeding of the cartilage, it begins to deteriorate. "Exercise, even passive exercise causes fluid shift, so any exercise is better than nothing." says Dr. Rita C. Sigmon, PhD, RD, LDN; Chair, Department of Nutrition Sciences at the New York Institute of Technology. Sigmon was also emphatic about using proper nutrition along with exercise, explaining that foods high in saturated fats have an inflammatory effect on the body. Likewise, a diet low in saturated fats that includes proper vitamin intake can help avoid swelling in the tissues.

Together, exercise and diet can play a positive role in combating arthritis. Even more importantly, it may not take an intensive exercise program or highly restrictive diet to begin reaping the benefits from this approach. Modest attempts at weight control and a more active routine can aid in reducing the adverse affects of arthritis. Most importantly, it could be your first step towards a more normal lifestyle.


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