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The Autumn Chill

It is mid April. It is still dark when the alarm wakes me up and honestly, that sucks. But that feeling quickly disappears when I see the sun come up and its another crisp Autumn day! We are really blessed with good South African weather!

The drop in temperature does, however, bring out other little niggles that remind us of our age sometimes. Me, I have a niggle in an old hip injury that rears its unwelcome head about now. This is now evident in my work too, with those who struggle with joint problems feeling the temperature and arthritis flaring up.

Here I want to dive into Arthritis, and more specifically, things you can do to help yourself.

Arthritis is a very broad topic actually, with many types and sub-types and variations. It covers acute and chronic inflammation of a joint that often co-exsists with pain and joint structural damage.

Osteoarthritis is the most commonly referred to type of arthritis. It is mainly caused by factors such as aging, injuries, some genetic predisposition, your sex and obesity.

Typical characteristics include:

  • Stiffness - commonly the start of it. You wake up just a bit tighter than you remember and you benefit from some movement. This does however to progress to where you notice you just can't move or stretch as far as you could and there can be pain or just immobility restricting you.

  • Pain - this is what everyone expects. It starts small, usually after you either sat for a long period of time and it hurts to get going, or you wake up with it, basically, you feel it when you try move after a period of time of rest or immobility. It starts samll, but the pain escalates. Commonly you will have a "flare up" for a short period, a few pain meds or anti-inflammatories sort it out and you good. Then it steadily increases in duration, frequency and intensity, over a few years.

  • Swelling - less common symptom in the early stages unless you injured it. Often it is after a little stumble or fall with a unexpected response. If you have reached this stage, its time to get professional help.

  • Other - skin changes, , rashes, redness, thickening etc, this varies and different kinds of Arthritis have specific characteristics. Often a first complaint affecting the knees is just giving way and weakness - usually a person who seldom complains of pain and just "gets on with it".

What does having these symptoms mean?

Just that you need to pay attention, see a professional if the episode is prolonged or limiting function and get an accurate diagnosis. Certainly don't leave it if you struggle to walk, have daily pain needing meds, have redness or swelling over a joint.

What can YOU do?

  • Move! Not only is movement proven to be effective, it prevents the progression of the disease and reduces pain if managed well!

  • Exercise and an active lifestyle goes a long way to slow down the progression and make you feel better. It some tings cause pain, seek advice on what alternatives you can do!

  • Heat and Ice - both old fashioned and incredibly effective remedies. Take your pick, or do both!

  • Weight loss - no-one likes to hear it, but if you are over weight, the research is there to remind you that you can reduce not only the pain, but also progression, but getting into a healthy weight zone.

  • Diet - some food increase inflammation, like sugars, and science is catching up to the anecdotal evidence that foods affect joint pain.

  • Pause exercises - if you spend to much time in one position - change it frequently so that the inflammation is minimized

  • Other - I'm not a fan of recommending meds without guidance - so if none of the above safe options are working - its time to seek help from your Dr or health care practitioner.

Most importantly, take care of yourself and pay attention to your body, pain does not need to mean stop - but rather move differently.

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