Health, Wellness and Fitness

Still have joint pain? Try these relief upgrades

By Michael Roizen, M.D., and Mehmet Oz, M.D.

Are your joints singing the blues? At least one of every four adults lives with the bone-deep ache of gout, lupus, Lyme disease, rheumatoid arthritis and/or plain old wear-and-tear osteoarthritis. But you can break free by taking advantage of new upgrades to tried-and-true pain-soothing fixes.

Osteoarthritis pain news: Get hip. Thanks to the obesity epidemic and a rise in sports-related joint injuries, osteoarthritis – the erosion of the cartilage cushion between bones in your hip, knees and other joints – is booming in 45- to 64-year-olds.

Tried-and-true fix: Weight loss and consistent, but not jarring, exercise, especially strengthening exercises for the muscles on all sides of your joints, can slash pain 50 percent and slow down joint damage.

New upgrade: Don’t just strengthen the muscles around your knees or the front of your thighs. Exercises that strengthen hip muscles – like side leg lifts – can ease pain in knees by 14 percent and boost joint flexibility. And you can ease hip discomfort by using core-strengthening exercises to help you walk tall.

Lyme disease pain news: Ask about retreatment, then pull up your socks (to avoid reinfection).  Carried by sesame-seed-size black-legged ticks, this bacterial infection attacks joints causing arthritis-like damage and discomfort. On the rise in parts of the U.S. and Canada, Lyme disease usually clears up with antibiotics – but not always.

Tried-and-true fix: One course of antibiotic drugs.

New upgrade: A second course of antibiotics may be worth trying to knock out lingering infection and symptoms. Ask your doctor if it’s a good option for you.

Bonus: Want to prevent Lyme disease? When you’re outside, check for ticks regularly (cuts risk 41 percent); use tick repellent (cuts risk 30 percent); wear long pants (cuts risk 22 percent); pull up your socks and tuck your pants into them (cuts risk by an extra 17 percent!).

Gout pain news: Sip smarter to prevent toe distress. In step with rising body weights, this inflammatory form of arthritis is increasingly common today. Gout makes big toes (and other joints) swell and throb for about 1 in 25 adults, as needlelike uric acid crystals accumulate. You may have heard the news that munching cherries can slash risk for a gout attack by 35 percent. But why stop there?

Tried-and-true fix: Prevent gout attacks by avoiding alcohol and foods that contain purine, such as asparagus, organ and game meats, dried beans and peas, herring, mackerel, mushrooms, sardines and scallops. They encourage the body to overproduce uric acid.

New upgrade: Skip sugary drinks. Slurping two a day more than doubles gout risk, because a sugar called fructose raises uric acid levels in your bloodstream. And try glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate supplements, if your doc agrees.

Lupus pain news: First new drug in 50 years. If you have lupus, your immune system causes inflammation, pain and damage to skin, heart, lungs, kidneys, joints and more. Monitoring the disease and getting the right treatments means keeping medical appointments is job No. 1 – but many people with lupus miss at least 33 percent of their doctor visits.

Tried-and-true fix: A variety of medications to soothe the immune system and protect the body.

New upgrade: Early in 2012 the FDA approved belimumab; it’s a monoclonal antibody that, along with other drugs, improves control of the disease – a good reason to make it to your next appointment!

Rheumatoid arthritis pain news: Insist on treatment – and don’t give up. In RA, an overactive immune systems triggers inflammation of lining of the joints in hands and feet, knees, ankles, hips and shoulders.

Tried-and-true fix: Early treatment with biologics can slow down or prevent joint damage.

New upgrade: If your biologic drug isn’t working, ask your doctor about a switch to another one, or to a non-biologic RA drug. Be patient and cognizant of side effects – it could take three to six months to see improvement. And be persistent; you’ve got a lot of options, yet 1 in 3 people with RA aren’t getting the pain-easing, joint-sparing meds they need.

Mehmet Oz, M.D. is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen, M.D. is Chief Medical Officer at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute. For more information go to (c) 2012 Michael Roizen, M.D. and Mehmet Oz, M.D. Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

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