Five Habits That Can Make Your Arthritis Pain Worse

If you’re one of the more than 50 million people throughout the United States suffering from arthritis, you’re probably desperate for relief from your sore, aching joints.

Are you taking your prescribed medications and resting but still not seeing improvement?

Some of your daily habits might actually be hindering the effectiveness of your medications and making your arthritis pain much worse.

Keep reading to find out why.

  1. Eating Sugary, Highly Processed Food

A diet that is full of sugary, overly processed foods will increase inflammation in the body and make your joints more sore and achy than usual. These kinds of foods are also known to cause weight gain, which puts in more pressure on your joints.

According to the Arthritis Foundation, you should replace highly processed foods with foods that are high in fiber, calcium, Vitamin C, and Omega-3 fatty acids.

These foods help fight inflammation, strengthen the bones, and boost the immune system instead. Some examples include:

  • Fish, especially salmon, tuna, mackerel, and herring
  • Tofu or edamame
  • Olive, avocado, walnut, and safflower oil
  • Berries
  • Low-fat dairy products
  • Leafy green vegetables like kale and spinach
  • Broccoli
  • Citrus fruits like oranges and grapefruits
  • Whole grain breads, oatmeal, and brown rice

Another good rule of thumb is to check the nutrition label on pre-packaged foods before consuming them. Look for foods that contain less than 10 grams of sugar and at least 3 grams of fiber per serving.

  1. Smoking

In addition to increasing your likelihood of developing rheumatoid arthritis, smoking also interferes with certain arthritis medications. It specifically reduces the effectiveness of methotrexate, a substance used in many medications.

Tobacco also hinders the body’s ability to deliver oxygen-rich blood to the bones and tissues. When blood and nutrients aren’t delivered, the bones and tissues start to deteriorate.

The discs in the spin are often the first bones to be affected by decreased blood supply, especially since they already receive limited blood flow. As a result, smokers are more likely to experience lower back pain and even osteoporosis.

Smoking also has been linked to increased fatigue and slower healing, two factors that can make your condition even more difficult to deal with.

  1. Not Getting Enough Exercise

It might seem counterintuitive, but moving more can actually make your body hurt less.

A sedentary lifestyle can lead to more joint pain and stiffness. Getting regular, low-impact exercise helps get the blood flowing to promote healing.

Some low-impact exercises you can try include:

  • Walking
  • Cycling
  • Swimming
  • Yoga
  • Pilates
  • Strength training with light weights or resistance bands

Regular exercise, when paired with a healthy diet, will also help you prevent weight gain. This, in turn, helps you avoid putting extra pressure on your joints, which can increase your pain.

  1. Drinking Too Much Alcohol

Alcohol, like smoking, poses a number of risks to people suffering from arthritis.

Alcohol hinders the effectiveness of medications (especially those that contain methotrexate) that are meant to reduce swelling and joint pain and can increase your risk of liver damage.

It also does not mix well with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen and naproxen. If you consume alcohol while taking these medications, you increase your risk for stomach bleeding and ulcers.

Alcohol has also been shown to decrease bone density. This, in turn, increases your risk for injury and additional arthritis complications.

  1. Not Getting Enough Sleep

Many people who suffer from arthritis find that their pain negatively affects their sleep. Some people have trouble falling asleep at all, while others are frequently waking up during the night.

Unfortunately, when you don’t get enough sleep, you’re more likely to experience an increased amount of arthritis-related pain.

Not getting enough sleep can lead to increased inflammation in the body, which can lead to increased joint pain in individuals with arthritis. Your body also has a harder time healing when it doesn’t get sufficient rest.

Physical activity has been shown to improve sleep in people with arthritis. If you’re not exercising regularly, getting into a good routine can help you get more rest.

Other lifestyle changes like meditation, a healthy diet, and disconnecting from electronic devices before bed can also help you get more sleep.

Tips for Improving Your Arthritis Pain

Changing your habits can work wonders when you’re dealing with severe arthritis pain. Some other things you can do today for arthritis pain relief include:

  • Try topical pain relievers: There are many arthritis cream that contain ingredients to help numb your pain and give you instant relief.
  • Take a warm bath: A warm bath helps relieve stress while also relaxing your joints.
  • Drink some ginger tea: Ginger is an anti-inflammatory herb that has been shown to work just as well as over-the-counter painkillers.
  • Use an ice pack: Ice helps reduce inflammation and relieve pain.
  • Get a massage: Regular massages can help reduce soreness and inflammation while also improving your range of motion.

Final Thoughts

When you’re dealing with a painful condition like arthritis, it can be hard to accept that your habits might be making your pain worse. It’s not easy to form new habits, but giving up things that are hurting you will only improve your quality of life.

Start taking steps today to change your bad habits, and you’ll be feeling better before you know it!


Image courtesy of dfrsce at

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