Arthritis is a word most people are familiar with. The term arthritis applies to many different disorders which cause pain, swelling, and stiffness both in and around the joints.

While there is no specific preventive measure that can be taken, living habits can do quite a lot to protect you from arthritis, and, if you are arthritic, your attitude, coupled with sensible living habits, of paramount importance in the management of this condition.

There are more than 80 types of arthritis. The two most prevalent in the U.S. are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

Rheumatoid arthritis is most common among young adults, especially women, and usually begins before 40 years of age, but anyone, at any age, can get this form of arthritis. It is a generalized disease that can lead to ill health and affect many joints at the same time.

The cause is not definite. It is thought to arise from a combination of factors. Arthritic symptoms are generally preceded by a long period of feeling below par, tiring easily and being susceptible to colds and respiratory infections. Heredity seems to be a predisposing cause.

Injury to one or more joints, infection, and prolonged exposure to cold and damp may also be contributing factors. Continual emotional stress such as grief, worry, and fear, are important aggravating influences.

Osteoarthritis is the commonest joint disorder. It is a disease of middle or old age, rarely becoming established before 40 years of age. It is caused by degenerative changes in the cartilage of the joints, intensified by wear and tear of the joint tissues.

The joints most frequently affected are those which bear strain – knees, spine, hips, and, surprisingly, those at the ends of the fingers.

The onset of osteoarthritis is usually gradual and with early treatment, the wearing away of the joints may be slowed down considerably or completely stopped. The sufferer can be relieved from pain and may gain varying ability to use their joints depending on their age.

The complications of arthritis occur very slowly and are more easily prevented than corrected.

Emotional stress plays a large part in both the onset and recurrence of arthritis. The person who wins the fight over their thoughts, emotions, and pain has the best chance of defeating the disease.

Fain causes despondency. Ways must be learned to approach and alleviate this discomfort. A doctor will prescribe useful medications and outline suitable exercises, but the onus is on the sufferers to manage carefully their condition at work and in the home.

If you want to do your utmost to protect yourself from arthritis:

  • Keep in good health.
  • Have a medical check-up once a year.
  • Watch your weight.
  • Have a well-balanced diet.
  • Get enough sleep and fresh air.
  • Protect yourself against cold and dampness, both indoors and out.
  • Get your share of pleasant recreations.
  • Take a positive interest in life.
  • Try to keep worry, grief, or nervous tension from getting you down.

The American Arthritis and Rheumatism Association offers the following suggestions for rest and exercise:

  • Balance work and rest, you will get more done without discomfort.
  • Try to relax mentally as well as physically. It will make a short period of rest more relaxing.
  • Alternate activities so that different muscles are used and different joints are exercised.
  • As a rule, do your exercises at least twice a day. Several short periods of exercise are better than one long one.
  • Start exercising very gently and slowly. By doing this you will learn how much exercise you can tolerate.
  • Do as much as possible for yourself. This is beneficial both physically and psychologically.
  • Above all, face your arthritis. Accept the possibility that a long period of treatment may be necessary and persevere with a pattern of life that suits the disease.
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