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How to Reverse Arthritis, Say Experts

Doctors weigh in on how to help prevent arthritis pain. 
FACT CHECKED BY Alek Korab

More than 58 million Americans have arthritis, which is caused by inflammation of the joints and can be so severe that it can cause difficulty to climb stairs or walk in some cases. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states, arthritis "is a leading cause of work disability, with annual costs for medical care and lost earnings of $303.5 billion," and while there's currently no cure for arthritis there are ways to help reduce symptoms and pain. Eat This, Not That! Health talked with experts who revealed their advice for helping reverse arthritis. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.

1

Acupuncture

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Dr. Ellie Heintze, ND, LAC (Naturopathic Doctor and Licensed Acupuncturist) says. "Arthritis can be painful and persistent, resulting in frustration when it isn't easy to find relief. Acupuncture is a non-invasive, alternative treatment that has been proven in numerous studies to help reduce pain and increase mobility. Acupuncture works by increasing blood flow to the area which helps to reduce inflammation, speed healing, and can work to reduce pain. Studies show acupuncture can help relieve pain by improving the body's nervous system, which can jumpstart the production of pain-reducing endorphins. Following a prescribed treatment plan and frequency will help to aid in long-term healing of the joint and help to increase range of motion."

2

Cut the Inflammation

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"There are many ways to cut inflammation," Dr. Heintze explains. "One of the best ways is dietary intervention. Using food as medicine is key for helping to reverse arthritis and improve joint health. While there's no diet that will completely solve or cure chronic joint pain, there are so many ways to design food habits around inflammatory nutrition to help lessen painful symptoms. The first step is to limit the 'junk' that can fuel inflammation such as processed foods and saturated fats, gluten grains, sugary snacks, and even fried food. Adding in foods like fish, olive oil, nuts and seeds, dark berries, grass-fed meats, and fresh herbs like turmeric and ginger to your diet can help to decrease inflammation and ease joint pain."

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3

Specific Exercises

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"Did you know that Tai Chi has been shown in studies to help reduce knee osteoarthritis?" Dr. Heintze asks. "Yep! Tai Chi is a gentle form of exercise that has amazing physical and mental health benefits. Typically there is a sequence of movements that align with the breath. A recent study presented at the 2015 annual meeting of the American College of Rheumatology showed that Tai Chi can improve the symptoms of knee osteoarthritis as much as or more than standard physical therapy. The study was composed of two groups, one group completed a 12-week Tai Chi class for one hour twice a week, and a second group participated in standard physical therapy for 30 minutes twice a week for six weeks. Subjects in the second group also received an initial evaluation and personalized therapy to address specific treatment goals and were prescribed exercises to practice at home for 30 minutes four times a week. According to the author of the study, these results mean that Tai Chi can offer a safe and effective therapy option to help reduce pain and inflammation associated with osteoarthritis."

Dr. Brian Meenan, DC, adds, "Exercise programs focused on the affected joint are one of the best ways to help prevent osteoarthritis. This is helpful so that the muscles help the joint function in the best way possible. These exercises are typically very specific, often given by a physical therapist so that the patient can increase proprioception in the area, increase the joint's stability and improve muscle function around the joint."

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4

Weight Loss

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Dr. Meenan states, "Especially when it comes to lower extremity arthritis, in the hip, knees or ankles, being overweight or obese can exacerbate or cause arthritis. Increased load on each of these joints leads to an increase in wear and tear which leads to the joint breaking down quicker. Secondly, overweight and obese individuals also tend to not be as active as those who are a normal or 'healthy' weight which can lead to arthritis. Our joints are made with synovial fluid in them, which act as a lubricant, similar to the oil in your car. The joint needs to be moving so that the synovial fluid can circulate and lubricate the joint. When the joint is not moving often, the fluid turns more viscous and thick, thus losing its lubricating traits." 

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5

Turmeric

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Lisa Richards, a nutritionist and author of the Candida Diet says, "Turmeric is a natural and effective anti-inflammatory compound. This characteristic makes it effective in reducing chronic pain, mitigating joint pain, and helping to improve the quality of life for individuals with various forms of arthritis and other inflammatory conditions. Turmeric makes a delicious tea with these added benefits. Turmeric is also known for its antioxidant potential. This characteristic enables it to fight free radicals and remove toxins from the body. Free radicals can damage our body's cells leading to various chronic conditions, including cancer. In this way turmeric can be effective in preventing or mitigating many of these illnesses. One cup of turmeric tea contains approximately 1 tsp of turmeric. Each teaspoon contains about 200 mg of turmeric and 400 to 600 mg is considered a safe dose. With this in mind turmeric and the fact that turmeric is absorbed best during a fasted state drinking 2-3 cups a day is ideal, before each meal."

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6

Stay Strong

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Dr. Karena Wu, Physical Therapist, and owner of ActiveCare Physical Therapy says, "Keeping your muscles supple and strong around your joints can help 'reverse' the symptoms of arthritis. When your muscles are flexible, it increases the ability of the joint to move within the full range of motion. Movement helps the fluid in the joint move which nourishes the bone ends. When your muscles are strong, it reduces the amount of compression around the joint because strong muscles are able to absorb forces between the bones. People who are overweight, tight, and stiff are more at risk, especially if they also do high-intensity, highly repetitive exercises. There is also a genetic component to arthritis but typically, osteoarthritis is a wear and tear repetitive stress in the joint. The more you use your body, the more you can have wear and tear from repetitive and chronic use. But other factors like not staying strong in the individual muscles, not being flexible enough, and not stable around the joints can increase the risk for any damage in a joint. People can prevent arthritis by keeping their bodies strong by doing the appropriate strength and stability exercises and keeping their bodies flexible. Other strategies include proper nutrition and hydration, as well as other therapies like massage that helps to keep the soft tissues more supple and better able to perform."

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7

Who is at Risk for Arthritis?

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According to Dr. Meenan, "The risk factors for osteoarthritis are related to the three ways to help halt arthritis. Those with joint injury, decreased muscle function and obesity are at the highest risk for arthritis. We also know that women develop arthritis more often than men."

Dr. Heintze explains, "Those people with autoimmune diseases can be more susceptible to get subsequent autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis. Long-term wear and tear of joints can make a person more susceptible to developing osteoarthritis."

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8

How Does Arthritis Develop?

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"Arthritis first develops when the cartilage or the protection between two bones in the joint starts to deteriorate," Dr. Meenan says. "This continues to happen until the two bones that are forming the joint start to rub together since their cushion is now gone or compromised. This can continue to get more severe and the body lays down extra bone in the form of bone spurs to try to repair the area. These typically can cause further pain and disability."

Dr. Heintze adds, "There are several different types of arthritis, including osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. In regard to rheumatoid arthritis, it develops when your immune system begins to attack your joints, leading to pain and inflammation. Osteoarthritis develops after normal wear and tear on joints occurs resulting in gradual deterioration of the cartilage in the joint space."

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9

How Can People Help Prevent Arthritis?

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"People can help prevent arthritis by leading an anti-inflammatory lifestyle," says Dr. Heintze. "This includes dietary interventions, avoiding toxins such as smoking, stretching, avoiding injury, and preventive medicine such as acupuncture, massage, and chiropractic care." And to protect your life and the lives of others, don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

Heather Newgen
Heather Newgen has two decades of experience reporting and writing about health, fitness, entertainment and travel. Heather currently freelances for several publications. Read more about Heather
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