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Over a lifetime of use, your joints might not move as well or as comfortably as when you were younger. Osteoarthritis is the most common type of joint discomfort in older adults and in people who are overweight or have diabetes. In fact, it’s not uncommon for someone to be overweight and have both diabetes and osteoarthritis. Living with multiple chronic conditions can make it difficult to be active and to engage in social or work activities. It can also cause emotional distress. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), arthritis has a greater impact on mental health and the ability to work than other chronic conditions. Thankfully, there are practical ways to help manage the discomfort.
What is Osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis causes discomfort, stiffness and swelling in the joints, especially in the knees. A healthy joint has enough cartilage to act as a buffer between bones. But when the cartilage around the joints is worn down, whether it’s from an injury or normal wear and tear, aches can arise from bones in the joint rubbing together. Though joints often hurt more during and after exercise, low-impact exercise and strength training can actually help manage the discomfort.
How are Diabetes and Osteoarthritis linked?
We don’t know for sure if one causes the other, but we do know that there is a link, and that having diabetes makes severe arthritis more likely. About half of all adults with diabetes also have arthritis, and more than one in four of these adults aren’t as active because of it. Being less active shortens, tightens and weakens the ligaments, tendons and muscles that help joints move. People who are older or overweight are more likely to have both diabetes and osteoarthritis. While you can’t prevent aging, you can manage weight. Extra weight puts extra pressure on joints, and according to the Arthritis Foundation, losing just 15 pounds can cut knee discomfort in half.
Tips for Joint Discomfort Relief
In severe cases, joint replacement might be recommended. But before it gets to that, here are some simple lifestyle changes to help manage osteoarthritis.
- Exercise is the best non-drug treatment for joint discomfort and function. The Arthritis Foundation recommends three types of activities: flexibility (to work range of motion and reduce stiffness), aerobic (for weight management, stamina for daily activities, and heart and lung health), and strength (to support and protect joints).
- Supplements for managing joint discomfort could allow you to be more active. According to the Natural Medicines database, some evidence shows that a specific combination product, which contains chondroitin sulfate plus glucosamine hydrochloride and manganese ascorbate, can improve discomfort for patients with osteoarthritis of the knee. This combination is available in a product available at Costco .
- Help is near! Local YMCAs offer aquatic programs specifically designed for people with arthritis. And your local Costco offers information and resources at its online Healthy Aging portal in the section dedicated to joint health and osteoarthritis.
- Eat regular and consistent healthy meals and snacks to reach your target weight while managing blood glucose levels. According to a Harvard University study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, foods that help with long-term weight loss include whole grains, vegetables, fruit, yogurt and nuts. Nuts in particular are good choices for blood glucose management. I recommend pistachios as a smart snack for weight management because of the large portion size (49 nuts per 160-calorie serving), and because the shells are a visual cue for easy portion control. Plus, pistachios are a good source of protein, fiber, unsaturated fats, B-vitamins and magnesium.
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