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Arthritis: These Joints Ain't Jumpin' by Marjorie Dorfman

Arthritis, as well as the good things in life, comes to all who wait. It will also arrive to all of us who live long enough for our joints to get brittle. Don't just stand there looking pained and helpless! Learn how to cope with some simple tips and a change of attitude.

I don’t deserve this, but I have arthritis and I don’t deserve that either.   
. . . Jack Benny

For all of the foibles, trials and tribulations associated with aging, there are fewer less amusing and more debilitating than the pains of arthritis. As we get older and our joints become brittle, almost any movement or activity becomes more difficult. Joints simply wear out, like the colors on a favorite shirt after many years of sustained use. Of course, we cannot replace joints as easily as we can a piece of clothing, and so the real trick becomes living with arthritis successfully. (I have heard that it’s easier than living with your adult children.) Nearly forty million Americans face this daily challenge by thinking ahead and being smarter about their bodies.

Arthritis can affect almost any joint in the body. Although doctors understand how some forms of arthritis start, they are still in the dark about other forms. Aging is the most obvious cause. Weak joints, however, can come from heredity or from lack of exercise. The body is a living machine; the more it’s used, the better condition it stays in. Some forms of arthritis are caused by injury to the joints. Although the injury itself may not be that serious, it can have significant results. An injury can affect the muscles, tendons, ligaments and even the cartilage and bone.

Everyone has his or her own unique characteristics and inheritance. In addition to the habits and life style that each person has developed, everyone’s mental and physical structure is different. Medically, this indicates that no one method or treatment can work for all people, even when they have the same disease. In addition to western medical practices, one should also look into some of the ancient Chinese alternatives, as one of those may work as well.

Chinese medicine emphasizes diet as one of its many concerns. It is well known that improper diet is one of the main causes of gouty arthritis. The Chinese have found many different herbs that can ease pain and swelling. Certain fish oils too, may interfere with the process of inflammation and therefore reduce the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.
If like most of us, you were dumb when you were younger, now is the time to wise up. (It is, however, too late to come to the aid of your countrymen. Chances are, they can all run faster than you can.) We have to learn how to reduce the stress both in our minds and on our joints. Constant mental and physical tension can increase pressure. For example, some people grind their teeth in their sleep and this can cause arthritis in the jaw. Most body tension is caused by mental reactions to stressful events. Learning how to regulate your mind is an important factor in treating arthritis.

Good posture does wonders for vulnerable joints. Your neck, back, hips and knees are protected if they are always lined up correctly. Stand with your weight evenly distributed between both feet. When you must carry things, make your stronger joints share the load. Try using the palms of both hands instead of fingers to lift or carry. Carry heavier things closer to your body to reduce the weight your joints must bear. Carry groceries in a paper bag close to your body with both arms rather than in a plastic bag. This will avoid putting undue pressure on your wrist and hand.

Always try to find a chair that’s the right height for the surface you are using. Pretend you are royalty in search of a throne as you seek out and climb into the highest chair in the room. Look for chairs with armrests to make it easier to rise when your cabinet summons your counsel on matters affecting the kingdom. When getting up from a chair, always slide forward to the edge, lean forward, then push down with your palms on the arms or seat of the chair. When climbing stairs leading to the upper floors of the castle, walk up one stair at a time, leading up with the good leg and down with the bad leg. (Avoid dungeons and moats. Dampness is not good for such conditions.)

Getting smarter about your body is like that cartoon of a long time ago, which depicts a sign that reads:

In addition to the pain, insult is added to injury because you have to learn to think differently when you are afflicted with arthritis. You have to think about moving around all the time. (Pretend you are a fugitive whose face has just been shown to fifty million people on America’s Most Wanted.) Why, you dare ask? Well, stiffness and pain don’t set in so easily when you avoid staying in the same position for long periods of time. Stretch and relax muscles and joints frequently if they become tired or tight, and change often from standing to sitting. If travelling on a plane, move around every hour or so, if for no other reason than to check for potential terrorists and those travelling no frills incognito.

To manage arthritis successfully, you must be able to talk freely about it (There are no brittle muscles in the mouth to prevent this.) People in your life need to understand how you feel and how to help you when you have flare-ups. Even if your arthritis is making you angry and frustrated, sharing this information with those important to you can help avoid misunderstandings.

In conclusion, maintain your spirit and appreciate your own uniqueness. No one’s bones are like yours, even if they hurt and you would gladly make an exchange! Stay warm in winter, cool in summer and in general, find new ways every day to enjoy the life you have come to live.

Did you know . . .

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