Caring For Arthritis: A Marathon, Not A Sprint

Caring For Arthritis: A Marathon, Not A Sprint

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People love quick results in life. The heady buzz of a strong coffee, rush of adrenaline after a burst of exercise or delight from a payoff on a lottery scratch card. These experiences offer speedy, self-affirming effects that you can feel and easily understand. A + B = C. Simple stuff.

Unfortunately, managing your health is not so easy. Especially in the case of a hugely complex, poorly understood illness such as arthritis. Medical treatments certainly do exist in the form of painkillers or surgery, which undoubtedly have a noticeable effect. Yet, many other highly valuable ways of managing the condition take time and some effort to pay a dividend.

Effect of Exercise

Exercise is now widely recognised at a positive contributor to better health for people with almost all forms of arthritis (although this may need to be low intensity, light forms of activity). There can actually be fairly quick physical and emotional results from exercise, such as the tightness of a muscle after weight training or a feeling of elation from the release of endorphins after a run. But for people with arthritis, the real benefits, to things like joints, bones and cartilage, as well as weight loss, take time to materialise.  

“If you have arthritis it’s very important to remain active as this will improve your health and make your pain better. Low-impact exercise is recommended for people with all types of arthritis. This is any exercise which puts less stress on your joints, and includes activities like swimming or cycling.”

About Exercise - Versus Arthritis

Benefits of Diet

A nutritious diet is a great example of a vital contributor to health that takes time to realise its effect. This may be why some people do not treat is as seriously as they should! Of course, there are some quick wins from certain foods and drinks in terms of energy, alertness and focus. But no-one expects to feel better immediately after eating a healthy meal. Rather, they can understand the benefits that come from certain food types – for example, protein from lean meat, vitamins from green vegetable, healthy oils from fish – so they can invest in these foods for the long haul. And now the scientific evidence is growing that provides a clear link between diet (a way of eating, not a weight loss strategy) and positive outcomes for people with arthritis.

“Dietary interventions can help in management of various disorders, including rheumatoid arthritis… (with)… presence of scientific evidences that demonstrate substantial benefits in reducing disease symptoms, such as pain, joint stiffness, swelling, tenderness and associated disability with disease progression.”

Managing Rheumatoid Arthritis with Dietary Interventions - Frontiers in Nutrition

Role of Supplements

Just like food and drink, supplements largely work over the medium-to-long-term. In the same way you don’t expect an instant result from eating an orange, yet you know it’s healthy, taking a vitamin pill is unlikely to generate an instant response. There are people who experience rapid and tangible results from supplements, but everybody’s body is different, so it shouldn’t be an expectation. Nevertheless, supplements offer a convenient way for people with chronic conditions to boost levels of the nutrients most helpful to their illness and ensure they don’t become deficient. It is therefore important they only take supplements containing ingredients with evidence-based links to a desired benefit. It is hard to feel your bones strengthening, but you can take vitamins proven to support the strengthening of bones.

“Nutritional intervention represents an ongoing strategy for managing and preventing OA (osteoarthritis) as a complement to traditional clinical treatment.”

Nutraceutical Supplements in the Management and Prevention of Osteoarthritis - International Journal of Molecular Science

It is difficult investing in longer term health tactics that don’t offer a quick result. At times, you wonder the point. But if you break initiatives down into small chunks it gets easier and over time the results will come. Try adding to your week an extra brisk walk, a portion of Omega-3 rich salmon and a couple of sugar-free days. You’ll feel benefit knowing you are trying, even if the physical benefits take longer. Then keep on adding the good stuff and removing the baddies, so before long you actually DO feel better.

As any good accountant will tell you: invest for the long term, because the payoff is bigger.


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