Enyeribe Ejiogu ([email protected]hoo.com)
Till date, Ugochukwu Ibezim, a journalist in his mid-50s, still gets flare-ups in his knee and hip, following the injuries he sustained in an accident about 30 years ago. Though he recovered from the injuries after hospitalization, but driving and spending long hours in very slow traffic in Lagos, puts stress on Ibezim’s right knee and hip bone, thereby causing him osteoarthritis pain that gets so bad that he has to take time off from work, to allow the pain subside enough to allow him work.
Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis, which affects millions of people worldwide. It occurs when the protective cartilage that cushions the ends of the bones wears down over time.
Although osteoarthritis can damage any joint, the disorder most commonly affects joints in the hands, knees, hips and spine. Osteoarthritis symptoms can usually be managed, although the damage to joints can’t be reversed.
Osteoarthritis symptoms often develop slowly and worsen over time. Signs and symptoms of osteoarthritis include:
Pain: Affected joints might hurt during or after movement.
Stiffness: Joint stiffness might be most noticeable upon awakening or after being inactive.
Tenderness: The joint might feel tender when you apply light pressure to or near it.
Loss of flexibility: You might not be able to move your joint through its full range of motion.
Grating sensation: You might feel a grating sensation when you use the joint, and you might hear popping or crackling or a squishy sound in the affected knee when you try stand up from a squatting position.
Swelling: This might be caused by soft tissue inflammation around the joint.
Osteoarthritis occurs when the cartilage that cushions the ends of bones in your joints gradually deteriorates. Cartilage is a firm, slippery tissue that enables nearly frictionless joint motion. Eventually, if the cartilage wears down completely, bone will rub on bone. Osteoarthritis has often been referred to as a “wear and tear” disease. But besides the breakdown of cartilage, osteoarthritis affects the entire joint. It causes changes in the bone and deterioration of the connective tissues that hold the joint together and attach muscle to bone. It also causes inflammation of the joint lining.
Ways to cope with arthritis
1. Stay active. Exercise may be the last thing you want to do when your arthritis hurts. But many studies show that physical activity is one of the best ways to improve your quality of life. Exercise boosts your energy. It can also strengthen your muscles and bones, and help keep your joints flexible. Try resistance training to build stronger muscles. Your muscles protect and support joints affected by arthritis. Go for aerobic workouts to burn calories, which will help you lose weight. Maintaining a healthy weight relieves stress on painful joints. Of course, if you›re experiencing a bad flare-up, it may be better not to exercise until the pain subsides.
2. Eat a balanced diet. Studies show that a variety of nutrients may help ease arthritis symptoms. Foods rich in vitamin C, especially fruits and vegetables, may help. Omega-3 fatty acids, found in fish and fish oil, may also help relieve pain. Experts say it›s best to focus on healthy foods rather than on single nutrients. You can get all the nutrients you need simply by following a balanced diet. Make sure your menu includes plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, fish, and lean meats such as turkey and pork tenderloin. Also, choose healthy fats, such as nuts and avocados, and healthy oils, including olive and canola oil.
3. Lose weight. Being overweight puts undue strain on weight-bearing joints such as your knees, spine, hips, ankles, and feet. Losing weight can ease symptoms of arthritis. Shedding pounds and keeping them off isn›t easy.
4. Sleep well. A good night›s sleep will help you cope with the pain and stress of arthritis. To sleep better, try going to bed at the same time every night. Take distractions like television and computers out of your bedroom. If you›re uncomfortable in bed because of arthritis, try using pillows to take the pressure off painful joints. If you have frequent sleep problems, talk to your doctor.
6. Keep pain under control. Over-the-counter medications can help ease arthritis pain. One of the most common is acetaminophen (Tylenol and store brands) because it doesn›t upset the stomach. However, taking more than recommended increases the chance of side effects, including liver problems. Other over-the-counter medications can also help, including aspirin, ibuprofen or naproxen sodium. Possible side effects include stomach irritation and bleeding. Read labels carefully to make sure you›re taking the medication correctly. Also, don›t take any pain reliever for more than 10 days without talking to your doctor.
7. Talk to your doctor about supplements and complementary medicine. Many supplements have been tested for the treatment of arthritis. Glucosamine and SAMe show the most promise. Glucosamine, often along with chondroitin, has helped improve pain in some studies, but not in others. Some medical research shows that SAMe, a chemical found in the body, may work as well as some over-the-counter medications, although more research is needed. If you do try supplements, you may need to take them for a month or more before you feel the full effects. People with arthritis also turn to treat
8. Try splints, braces, and other aids. Devices that support painful joints, such as splints, braces, and canes can help ease your discomfort and prevent injury. Other items such as electric can openers and shower chairs can also help make your everyday life easier.
9. Seek support. Living with arthritis isn›t easy. Finding other people you can talk to and share ideas with can help. Check out arthritis support groups online or in your area.
10. Stay positive. Your mental outlook can have a big impact on how you feel and how well you function. Every day, try to do something you enjoy. Spend time with friends. Develop hobbies that you can do even with arthritis. Focus on your abilities rather than your disabilities.
• Adapted with additional material from www.webmd.com and Mayo Clinic