My best friend just told me that she has arthritis and was pretty concerned about what to do next, as she really wants to keep playing tennis three times a week. She was afraid that her symptoms would keep her from being ready to play. Arthritis is also often misdiagnosed and is full of “old wives” tale remedies that people get from friends, family, or in the news.
Doctors recommend that you get a diagnosis as soon as possible.
After all, there are 100 different types of the disease, and can mimic one another in similar overlapping symptoms. It is also recommended by family doctors to see a rheumatologist, as s/he will specialize in the care of diseases of the joints, bones, and muscles.
But what would you say to your friend who wants to keep playing tennis as long as possible?
Not surprisingly, three recommendations come up loud and clear in the literature:
- Don’t smoke
- Shed some pounds if you are overweight
- Go to the gym several times a week
These very things will help tremendously with your symptoms.
Here are a few other considerations to help manage the symptoms of arthritis:
- Get a flu shot especially if the process is going to improve rheumatoid arthritis, or other autoimmune forms of arthritis.
- Not surprisingly, don’t play doctor. Much information is available on the internet but may not be appropriate for you.
- Don’t self medicate, taking prescriptions only when you are feeling pain. Follow the directions given by your doctor.
- Talk to your doctor early, especially if it will ever lead to surgery so you can be properly prepared for the discussion when the time comes.
- Walk, don’t run? Individuals need to choose the activity that is best for them but not too impactful on their joints, as running may be. Long time runners may have a problem with that thought, so it is also recommended to find softer surfaces for running. Other alternatives would be swimming, biking, and walking.
- Building strength, balance, and flexibility are important. These specific forms of exercise can be discussed with your doctor depending on your type of arthritis. Other research shows that Pilates, a regimen that emphasizes the strengthening of the core, may be very beneficial to various types of arthritis.
Tweaking your diet may also help you manage arthritis.
Certain foods that are very good for anti-inflammatory activity in your body are:
- fatty fish, such as salmon and mackerel
- the spice turmeric, which is often used for making Indian dishes such as Curry
- Olive oil, nuts, beans, and fruits and vegetables are all cornerstones for a healthy diet, like the Mediterranean diet
Increasing your intake of these foods may improve your symptoms.
Ice, and heat producing products are underrated. These often will work as well as ibuprofen to cope with pain.
Keep yourself organized and ready to talk to your doctor at any time. As the baby boomers age, it will be important to be smart about the things we are doing and ready to discuss with our physicians. Being, of course, the best you can be!
Written by Rita Larsen, RDN, CD; Elite Sports Clubs Nutrition Educator & Diet Counselor
Rita is certified in Positive Psychology, University of Penn; has a BS in Dietetics from Kansas State University; and an Internship and Masters at the Indiana University Medical Center.Schedule a Nutrition Consultation