7 ways to cope with arthritis pain

Every time the rainy season comes around, there is always a jump in complaints of neck and back, hip and knee pains, and stiffness in my patients, especially among the 60-plus age group. It's something I see on a regular basis.

I was sitting in one of my continuing education seminars in the US when Dr. Don Harrison, specialising in chiropractic biophysics, posed the question: "Are you feeling SADD?"

In our (chiropractic) world, it doesn't refer to the emotion of sadness. Rather, SADD stands for Spinal Arthritis and Disc Disease.

From my years in practice, I've learned that people don't have a clear understanding of arthritis. To most, any pain experienced with aging is automatically arthritis. It is not. It's important to realise that pain can come from different sources and can be characterized differently.

Different types of pain

Understanding spinal arthritis and knowing how to distinguish different types of (arthritis) pain will enable one to seek proper treatment for pain relief.

Briefly, arthritis is classified into three categories: degenerative, the most common type; inflammatory (ex. rheumatoid arthritis); and metabolic (ex. gout).

Degenerative arthritis is synonymous with terms such as Spondylosis (arthritis in the spine), Osteoarthritis (in the extremities), Degenerative Joint Disease and Degenerative Disc Disease. It is a progressive degenerative condition affecting the connective tissue surrounding our joints and the surfaces of our bones. The most commonly affected joints are the weight-bearing joints such as the neck and back, hips, knees, and the fingers where it's most visible.

The number one classic symptom is early-morning stiffness with (or without) pain; and difficulty standing after prolonged sitting. The discomfort usually improves within 30 minutes after you start moving.

Joint pain also results from overuse during activities like walking and running, biking, or with too much exercise. In severe cases, with degenerative disc disease, you can have numbness and tingling traveling down your arms and legs that can lead to muscle weakness.

Joint pressure

The weather also plays a role. Changes in barometric pressure causes changes in joint pressure. In fact, some studies have shown that some people can predict when the rain is coming because they feel it in their joints. And because of the recent rains we've been getting, a lot of my patients have definitely been feeling SADD!

Arthritis usually starts to develop at the age of 40 onward, but now I'm seeing early radiographic (x-ray) evidence in adults as young as in their 30s.

This is due to a sedentary lifestyle, being overweight, bad posture and abusing one's body (such as active individuals with repetitive injuries). The prevalence of arthritis dramatically increases after the age of 50.

People need to realise and understand that there is no cure for arthritis. The key to getting older is to prolong the inevitable, and to sustain what I refer to as functional health-that is, being able to do your regular activities with minimal pain, and to live and enjoy life as comfortably as possible as you age.

Every day in my practice, I see the difference in people who have taken care of their bodies versus those who have really neglected it. I can spot them even before I do my examination. They make the same mistake of thinking that their pain is a normal part of aging and they feel powerless. They live with it until it becomes unbearable. This is dangerous because this leads to sleep deprivation, drug dependency, addiction to painkillers and surgery.

Self-management tips

Here are a few self-management tips to help you cope with arthritis pain.

1. Rest from repetitive activities and straining postures.

2. Heat application-hot packs, hot shower/bath; ice therapy for acute flare-ups or with inflammation.

3. Light-to-moderate exercise; start with pain-free range of motion.

4. Controlled and proper exercise. Overtraining and poor form can lead to injuries, and faster degeneration.

5. Weight control, which is important in preventing back, hips and knees arthritis.

6. Posture awareness, such as your sleeping position and sitting posture.

7. Improved diet and/or supplementation-Glucosamine with Chondroitin, fish oils, antioxidants, rich fruits and vegetables.

Individualized treatments

Preserving your spine is easy and attainable if you get informed. My practice specializes in this, and treatments are individualized depending on severity. The goal is to effectively relieve pain and stiffness, and improve joint motion and function. Every day I get to help patients suffering from arthritis pain, neck and back pain, hip and knee pain, and stiffness.

Dr. Anton Cancio is a US-trained chiropractor in the Philippines. He is licensed and certified by the California Board of Chiropractic Examiners and the American Chiropractic Board of Sports Physicians.

Cancio Chiropractic is at Missouri cor. Connecticut, Greenhills. Contact 7227530 or 0917-5807530. By appointments only.

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