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Exercise For Arthritis

When you have arthritis, your joints hurt you wake up, but you force yourself to get out of bed and as you keep on moving, the pain lessens. Is your body trying to tell you something when you feel better after you start to move? Many studies have shown that bed rest worsens the pain of arthritis, and a strength training program can help to control it.

Most people with arthritis think they should rest their muscles and joints, but resting is the worst thing you can do. When you move around, the cartilage in your joints acts like a shock absorber. Resting weakens cartilage and increases its likelihood to break. Resting also weakens muscles so they can’t control the joints, allowing more wobble of the joints with each movement and increasing cartilage damage.

People with arthritis should exercise, but they should not jog, run or engage in sports that cause your feet to pound on the ground, such as tennis or rope-jumping. When you hit the ground hard with each step, your foot stops suddenly and the force is transmitted up your leg to your knees and hips. This force can break cartilage. Choose an activity with smooth motions such as cycling, swimming or rowing. You can pedal a bicycle because pedaling is done in a smooth rotary motion that does not jar your joints.

People with arthritis should also lift weights because this strengthens muscles to stabilize joints, and helps to strengthen cartilage to protect it from breaking. Ideally, everyone with arthritis should have access to weight machines and be taught how to lift weights with proper form, in sets of ten, two or three times week. The combination of a smooth, continuous exercise and a supervised weight lifting can help protect you from further joint damage and reduce your pain.


Dear Dr. Mirkin: How does pepper cream relieve pain?

Pain messages are passed along nerves by a neurotransmitter called substance P. Capsaicin, the substance that makes peppers hot, blocks substance P and the resultant pain. A cream containing .025 percent capsaicin has been shown to block pain in joints, nerves and skin. It can be used to relieve the pain from a variety of causes: arthritis, surgery, various injuries, tumors, nerve damage from diabetes and so forth. Reports suggest that capsaicin cream also can control the discomfort of cluster headaches, psoriasis or itching from any cause.

Pepper creams are available over-the-counter in most drug stores. When you use pepper cream, you need to know that capsaicin is a very stable alkaloid that does not wash off your skin, even with soap. If you apply it with your fingertips and later touch your eyes, lips, or any mucous membrane or open cuts, you can get a nasty burning sensation that will last about twenty minutes. You can avoid this problem by wearing rubber gloves to apply it, or buy the pepper cream in a special roll-on applicator bottle so you don’t get it on your hands.


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Dear Dr. Mirkin: How can I tell which fats are healthful and which are unhealthful?

Fat is classified into saturated fats, polyunsaturated fats, and monounsaturated fats. Saturated fats appear to increase your risk for heart attacks when you take in more calories than you burn.

Monounsaturated fats are considered healthful because they form LDL cholesterol that is resistant to oxidation; plaques are formed by oxidized LDL. Good sources include olive oil and avocados.

We used to think that all polyunsaturated fats help to prevent heart attacks when they replace saturated fats, but now we have different information. Polyunsaturated fats are classified by their structures into omega-3s and omega-6s, and you need both types; these are called the essential fatty acids because you cannot make them in your body and must get them from your food.

For most of the time humans have been on earth we have eaten foods that contain omega-6's and omega-3's in a ratio of about 2:1. However, over the last 50 years in North America, the ratio has changed; it now ranges from 10:1 to 20:1. Today our diet includes huge amounts of oils that are extracted from plants and used for cooking or in prepared foods. These oils (such as corn oil, safflower oil, cottonseed oil, peanut oil, soybean oil) are primarily omega-6s. We have decreased our intake of omega-3's, found primarily in whole grains, beans and other seeds, and seafood. Eating too much omega-6 and too little omega-3 causes clots and constricts arteries to increase risk for heart attacks, increases swelling to worsen arthritis, and aggravates a skin disease called psoriasis. It may block a person’s ability to respond to insulin, causing high insulin and blood sugar levels and obesity. It increases hormone levels of insulin like gr

June 26th, 2013
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About the Author: Gabe Mirkin, MD

Sports medicine doctor, fitness guru and long-time radio host Gabe Mirkin, M.D., brings you news and tips for your healthful lifestyle. A practicing physician for more than 50 years and a radio talk show host for 25 years, Dr. Mirkin is a graduate of Harvard University and Baylor University College of Medicine. He is board-certified in four specialties: Sports Medicine, Allergy and Immunology, Pediatrics and Pediatric Immunology. The Dr. Mirkin Show, his call-in show on fitness and health, was syndicated in more than 120 cities. Read More
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