When the alarm goes off in the morning, do you hop right out of bed and start your day, or do you have to shuffle around for awhile, wincing at the pain in your knees and back?
If so, you might be one of the approximately 40 million Americans who have arthritis.
Why do my hands hurt so much?
Before we get into some of the reasons why so many people are dealing with this painful condition, let’s talk a bit about what arthritis means.
Basically, any word with “itis” at the end refers to inflammation. In the case of osteoarthritis, which is the most common form of arthritis, the cartilage, which is what helps to lubricate the bones, has worn down, leading to a great deal of inflammation and pain. For some people, arthritis also includes bone damage, especially when the cartilage has eroded completely and you are left with bone rubbing against bone.
No wonder it hurts to walk or play catch with your grandkids.
Arthritis can also occur in any joint in the body; while you often hear about it impacting the knees, knuckles and spine you can really have it anyplace in your body that has joints, including your jaw.
What causes arthritis?
Over the years we have heard a number of reasons for getting arthritis – maybe you have heard these too, or even say them yourself. Common examples are “Don’t crack your knuckles – you’ll get arthritis!” or “Don’t sit in that certain way, because it’s bad for your joints.” But, actually, these are just myths.
What truly causes arthritis are a number of things – some that we can control, and some that we cannot. Number one is genetics. If your mom and grandpa had arthritis, you are genetically predisposed to getting it too. Unfortunately, there’s not a lot you can do about your relatives and DNA, but there are definitely things you can do to reduce your risk of getting arthritis.
Workstyle and lifestyle causes of arthritis
There are a number of things we do every day that can increase our chances of getting osteoarthritis. For example, if you have a job that involves making a lot of repetitive motions, you may be at an increased risk.
Another reason people are prone to getting arthritis is due to their diet. Essentially, any type of food or drink that causes an inflammatory response in the body – things like wheat, dairy and soda – can lead to joint pain.
This is why, as a general practice, we discourage people from eating a lot of dairy products and other foods that cause inflammation. It’s not because we are anti-dairy or promoting a vegan diet, it’s because we have seen time and time again how drinking a lot of milk and eating a lot of cheese and ice cream – as delicious as those foods can be – can lead to the body going haywire and causing the joints to look funny and for people to wake up in pain every morning.
Good news: relief is possible
Fortunately, there are a number of things we can do to reverse the damaging effects of arthritis. These include dietary changes as well as a number of natural supplements that have been found to have a huge impact on people with osteoarthritis. We will get into this more in a future blog on arthritis, so please stay tuned!