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Painful Arthritis: How Do You Get Ahead Of It?

First Signs Of Arthritis

I have chronic osteoarthritis in my ankle and my knee, due primarily to old injuries. I’ve also had bouts of stenosis in my neck — which is basically the same as arthritis. Then last year my back started bothering me. At first I tried to ignore it, but eventually I went to the doctor, and sure enough, he confirmed I have signs of arthritis in my lower spine as well.

By the way, I blame my parents for my bad bones. My dad dealt with a back pain for as long as I can remember, and my mother got osteoporosis later in life. Also, I have two sisters. Both of them have had bone issues. One has had surgery on her foot and her shoulder. The other has two new knees.

I have not gone under the knife myself. But over the years I’ve been through several regimens of physical therapy — for my ankle, my knee, my neck, and now my back.

The Importance Of An Exercise Regiment

I remember when I first had neck issues, I was given an exercise regiment which I did regularly — until my neck stopped hurting. Then I stopped. Of course, the pain and numbness returned, and I had to go for more physical therapy. So now I’ve learned my lesson, and I’m pretty good about doing my prescribed exercises — because they do seem to work, and there’s no greater motivation for doing exercises than to avoid pain.

Fortunately, my back exercises are similar to the ones I do for my knees — so I kill two birds with one stone, so to speak. I do one session in the morning, and a “refresher course” of about ten minutes before  I go to bed.

Keep Moving

I like to play golf and ping pong. I’ve also played a little pickleball. When we’re able to go out again in public — after we all get our shots, maybe by summer — I’ve been thinking of joining a pickleball group. So I asked the doctor if that would be okay. His basic response was, the best thing you can do is keep moving. So do anything, as long as it doesn’t hurt — although he did tell me not to run long distances (no danger of that), and suggested that biking and swimming are two great low-impact exercises that strengthen the legs and body. So I bike and swim when I can, but honestly, not too often.

Pain Management

He also recommended over-the-counter pain medications. I took Naproxen (Aleve) for a while, but then I heard it can give you a heart attack or stroke or something. So now I take Ibuprofen (Advil) a couple of times a week when the ache doesn’t go away — or more lately Acetaminophen (Tylenol), since I read somewhere that Ibuprofen makes you more susceptible to COVID-19. I don’t even know if that’s true. But anyway, luckily, I have not felt the need to go on to anything more powerful.

I’ve also tried CBD ointment on my knee and ankle. I think it might have helped a little, but it’s hard to tell. It might just be the placebo effect.

Does Diet Help?


 I’m always wondering if there’s anything else I can do to slow down arthritis, to keep the pain levels down, maybe prevent it from popping up elsewhere in my body. There’s a lot of advice about diet. The problem is that none of it is conclusive.

 Everyone agrees that eating plenty of vegetables, especially broccoli and cauliflower and spinach, is good for arthritis, as well as virtually every other health issue we might have. We’re supposed to consume lots of fiber, and restrict intake of salt and sugar. People disagree about milk and milk products — although nobody thinks eating a lot of cheese is a good idea. But that may be as much for its fat and salt content as its milk content.

The truth of the matter is that you can’t eat your way out of arthritis. There’s really no “cure.” Pain killers might help. Surgery can work in the most severe cases. But for most of us the best medicine is exercise. Stretching for sure, as well as light-to-moderate, low-impact movement like swimming, walking, biking. And . . . by summer I hope to put pickleball on the list.

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About The Author
Tom Lashnits
Tom Lashnits
Tom Lashnits spent 40 years in New York book and magazine publishing before retiring to Bucks County, PA, in 2017. He now volunteers in the school system, produces the baby boomer blog Sightings Over Sixty . . . and is just starting to chase after grandchildren.
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