By: Sheila Borgen, PT
Let’s start by discussing inflammation. We have all heard of the term throughout our lives, but
do we really know what it is? Inflammation is a necessary part of the body’s defense system.
When a harmful stimulus is in the body, the immune system jumps into action to get rid of it.
The immune system helps eliminate acute conditions and restore the body to optimal working
status. However, what if a chronic stimulus keeps the immune system hard at work
continuously? Simply put, the immune system does not know when to slam on the brakes.
Instead, it accelerates forward and attacks good tissues instead of the foreign stimulus. This
results in a vicious cycle of inflammation known as an autoimmune disease.
Now that we have a basic understanding of inflammation let’s talk about a specific kind of
predator: Rheumatoid Arthritis. This is the most common type of inflammatory arthritis.
Rheumatoid arthritis is a painful condition that affects the lining of your joints. It often begins in
the smaller joints of the hands and feet but often progresses to larger joints including knees,
hips, and shoulders. It frequently affects joints on both sides of the body. This sneaky
autoimmune disease can welcome secondary complications such as heart failure due to
systemic inflammation. Lung disease due to systemic inflammation. Airway disease due to
systemic inflammation. Joint fusion due to systemic inflammation. Osteoporosis due to
systemic inflammation. Balance issues and falls due to systemic inflammation. Do we see a trend? Let’s talk about what we can do to help manage the inflammation that wages war on the body.
Unfortunately, there is no magic potion to destroy rheumatoid arthritis. There are, however,
things that we can do to decrease the amount of inflammation in the body, which reduces the
risk of secondary complications. Some of these things include a healthy diet, stretching,
strengthening, exercise, and using strategies in your daily routine to take stress off your joints.
Eating healthy has many meanings depending on your life experiences, education, ethnicity, and upbringing. There are many great diet plans, but we will focus on a diet that will reduce inflammation. Consuming nuts, beans, fruits, vegetables, fish, olive oil, and whole grains is beneficial. Many know this diet plan as the Mediterranean Diet. Not only will this diet decrease your body’s overall inflammation, but you will likely feel a lot better overall.
Exercising, stretching, and strengthening are also quite helpful in reducing inflammation if done correctly. You will not do your body any favors by hitting the pavement daily! On the flip side, riding a bike or swimming is an excellent choice.
No one should have to walk this road alone. If you feel overwhelmed with rheumatoid arthritis, contact Age Fit Physical Therapy and Wellness. Let them walk beside you on this journey. Let them design an exercise program tailored to you. Let them teach you how to stretch your muscles to maintain flexibility. Let them instruct you in a balance program to keep you on your feet. Most of all, let them support you!!
Sheila Borgen, PT, Author
Sheila is a freelance writer for physical health, mental health, and parenting. She has four exceptional children, one adopted from South Korea. She lives in Alabama with her husband and children. Sheila enjoys cheering her children on at archery tournaments, soccer games, and color guard performances. She has over 25 years of experience as a physical therapist with a special love for the senior population. Learn more about Sheila at WriteInventive.com.