4 Ways to Help Prevent and Ease Arthritis

Nearly 59 million people in the United States have arthritis. But there are steps you can take to lower your risk.

A middle aged Asian woman massages her aching hand

Updated on November 4, 2022.

The number of Americans with arthritis is on the rise and experts say certain lifestyle factors—including too much weight and too little activity—have a lot to do with it.

In a 2021 update of arthritis figures, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) looked at data from the 2016-2018 National Health Interview Study. They found that nearly one in four adults in the United States (roughly 58.5 million) have been diagnosed with some form of arthritis and about 10 percent (25.7 million) say the condition makes everyday activities like climbing stairs, getting dressed, and doing housework difficult.

Two main contributors are obesity and aging. Both are leading risk factors for osteoarthritis, the most common type of arthritis, which involves the wear and tear of joints. More Americans are experiencing osteoarthritis and excess weight is speeding up the process.

The report included other conditions that typically involve joint pain, such as rheumatoid arthritis, gout, lupus, and fibromyalgia.

How to lower your risk of developing osteoarthritis

There’s no way to stop growing older, but there are a few things you can do to help prevent or live better with osteoarthritis:

Keep moving. Exercising can help keep your joints limber and ease pain. The CDC recommends that people with arthritis get at least two and a half hours of low-impact exercise per week. Try going for a walk or taking a swim, both of which are easy on your joints. Just don’t overdo it on heavy exercise if you already have arthritis; speak with a healthcare provider about routines that are right for you.

Lose weight. Consider this: Every pound of extra weight adds four pounds of stress to your knees. Over time, that takes a toll. If people with obesity have osteoarthritis in one knee, they are up to five times likelier to develop it in the other knee than are people at a healthier weight. They are also about twice as likely to develop osteoarthritis in the hands. Dropping extra pounds you may be carrying can go a long way.

Eat to ease inflammation. Foods with anti-inflammatory properties include oily fish (especially salmon), nuts and seeds (think walnuts, pine nuts, and almonds), and olive oil. Because they can help lessen inflammation, they may work to ease your joint pain and improve your overall health, too.

Reduce your stress level. Feeling frazzled can make your osteoarthritis pain worse. The muscle tension that often accompanies the stress response can heighten arthritis symptoms. Stress also increases inflammation in the body, which may also exacerbate joint pain. In addition to getting regular exercise—which is a stressbuster in itself—make time each day to relax with deep breathing exercises, yoga, or meditation.  

Article sources open article sources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (NCCDPHP). Arthritis. Published November 3, 2021.
Theis KA, Murphy LB, Guglielmo D, et al. Prevalence of Arthritis and Arthritis-Attributable Activity Limitation — United States, 2016–2018. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2021;70:1401–1407.
Arthritis Foundation. How Fat Affects Osteoarthritis. Accessed November 4, 2022.
Johns Hopkins Arthritis Center. Osteoarthritis: Role of Body Weight in Osteoarthritis - Weight Management. Published 2016.
Arthritis Foundation. The Ultimate Arthritis Diet. Accessed November 4, 2022.
Harvard Health Publishing. Foods that fight inflammation - Harvard Health. Published November 16, 2021.
Cleveland Clinic. Anti-Inflammatory Diet: What To Eat (and Avoid). Published February 2, 2022.
Arthritis Foundation. How Stress Affects Osteoarthritis. Accessed November 4, 2022.

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