I see several patients each day who have arthritis; most have osteoarthritis (OA), or ‘wear and tear’ arthritis, and its most common in the knees, low back, hands, and fingers (especially thumbs). For relief, some use sport creams such as Ben-Gay, or aspercream, or myoflex, usually with little or no relief. DMSO (dimethyl sulfoxide) of > 70% purity has been shown to be beneficial, but some cannot tolerate it. I attempt to relieve it via two modes; exercise and diet. Exercise is important for keeping joints well-oiled and helping with weight management. Excess fat not only stresses your joints, it can actually increase inflammation. Movement also gives you a sense of mastery over the affliction; being proactive helps you mentally. For the cardiovascular system, bicycling is great for those with knee issues; set the seat height so that the knees are almost straight. Water exercise is also beneficial. If knees and the back are able to tolerate, walking is also a good choice. Strengthening exercises are also a must. A recent study of more than 18,000 people found that those aged 50-59 with chronic pain were similar in physical ability to those without pain age 80-89. Yikes! The reason? When someone hurts, it’s extremely hard to motivate yourself to do anything. That’s why they hire me.

For hand and finger pain (especially thumb), I’ve had good results with a large bucket of rice. Fill it halfway with rice, deep enough so that you can put your hand and wrist all the way in. Open and close the hand, twirl the thumb, flex and extend the wrist. The exercise will get extremely tiring after about 30 seconds; so I have them do it several times per day. It strengthens the muscles and takes stress off the joints.

There are several foods that also help with inflammation. Heathy fats, such as those found in wild salmon, olives and olive oil, egg yolks, walnuts, avocados, and flax seeds are beneficial. Antioxidants reduce the activity of the enzyme cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2), a major cause of inflammation. Ginger, turmeric, berries, cherries, and green and white teas show good benefits for arthritis. Vitamin D deficiency causes OA to progress more rapidly. Good food sources are salmon, mackerel, tuna, sardines, fortified milk, and egg yolks.

Foods to steer clear of: high-fructose corn syrup, chemical food stabilizers such as those found in ice cream and beer, poultry (because of high arachidonic acid), and members of the nightshade family (tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, peppers).

On a personal note, I have ankylosing spondylitis, and was able to keep it at bay with diet and exercise. I eliminated the nightshade family when first diagnosed, but have slowly added them back into my diet. I also religiously take 2000 mg of turmeric every day; I think it is my secret weapon.My pain is less than half of what it used to be; the only thing I haven’t resumed is running.

Stay well, John R Blilie, M.S.