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Arthritis literally means inflammation of the joints, but more commonly, it refers to the over 100 conditions that can cause joint pain. These include: Gout, old injuries, infections, Systemic Lupus, Psoriasis, Crohn’s and other autoimmune diseases. Determining which of these culprits is to blame for your pain is critical to choosing the most effective treatment.

Two of the most well-known forms are Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid arthritis.

Osteoarthritis, commonly referred to as degenerative joint disease, affects more than 35% of women after the age of 60. Some people notice that their joints “crack” or that they are developing “knobby” fingers; however the most common symptom is joint pain.

Rheumatoid arthritis is the most common form of inflammatory arthritis. It affects an estimated 1% of the world population and can start at any age. While newer treatments can halt the progression of the disease in most cases, it can cause significant joint damage if left untreated.

Regardless of the type of arthritis you are suffering from, the most important thing to remember is that your life is not over. Listen to your body and talk to your doctor. Here are a few simple tips to help you:

Give yourself a break. Balance your need to stay active with a healthy amount of rest. If you are in pain, don’t fight it or try to be tough.

Use heat and ice. Although one of the most obvious, these simple tools can also be the most effective. Try both to see which works best for you.

Go low impact. Exercise is an important part of staying healthy, but don’t overdo it. Moderate, low-impact activities are best for those with arthritis. Try swimming, biking, water aerobics, yoga, Pilates, Tai-Chi or simply walking regularly.

Ask for help. Being in constant pain can make you feel tired, frustrated and depressed. Remember to talk to your loved ones about what you’re going through, so they can help and support you.

Avoid gaining weight. While there is no special diet for people with arthritis, eating well-balanced meals will help you maintain a healthy body weight, which means less stress on your joints.

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