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The Ultimate Guide to Living Well With Arthritis

More than 54 million U.S. adults have arthritis, and the condition is more common in women than men.
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While most people with arthritis experience some kind of joint pain and stiffness, the condition can look quite different from person to person. In fact, there are more than 100 types of arthritis, all of which can make everyday activities challenging.

Here, you'll find practical recommendations for preventing and living with arthritis, including science-backed diet, exercise and lifestyle tips aimed at improving your joint health.

What Exactly Is Arthritis?

Osteoarthritis most commonly occurs in the hands, knees and hips.
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Nearly a quarter of U.S. adults have been diagnosed with arthritis, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which is marked by pain, stiffness and swelling in the joints caused by inflammation.

This inflammation occurs for different reasons and in different areas of the body, which separates one type of arthritis from another. The most common form is osteoarthritis, or "wear and tear" arthritis, per the U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM), which results when the cartilage at the ends of bones wears away due to either injury or repeated use.

The second most common type is rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune condition in which the body attacks its own tissues, per the NLM. It can affect any joint and other organs of the body, too, but it's most often seen in the wrists and fingers.

Then there's juvenile arthritis, a type that occurs in children, which isn't very well understood but seems to be linked to a problem with the immune system, per the CDC.

Read more about the risk factors for arthritis, how it's diagnosed and what treatment options are available.

Can You Prevent Arthritis?

Low-impact exercise like biking is a great way to keep your joints healthy.
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Some risk factors for arthritis, like carrying certain genes, are outside of our control. But others — like smoking — are what's called modifiable, meaning you can lower your risk by changing your behavior.

Your weight, diet choices, exercise regimen, posture and even your dental hygiene fall into the modifiable category. Establishing good habits in these areas can reduce your odds of developing arthritis as well as improve your overall joint health and protect your bones as you age.

Learn about the science-backed ways to help prevent arthritis and how to put these methods into practice.

How to Manage Arthritis Pain

Certain foods may lessen the inflammation that comes with arthritis.
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There is no cure for arthritis, unfortunately. Instead, the goal for those with the condition is to control symptoms as best they can.

"Improving one's arthritis pain can and will be a lifelong journey," Maria Kyriacou, MD, a primary care sports medicine physician at Miami Orthopedics and Sports Medicine Institute in South Florida, tells LIVESTRONG.com. "There will be both good and bad days. However, the goal is to minimize the frequency of your bad days."

Beyond over-the-counter and prescription medications, managing stress, getting daily physical activity and trying alternative therapies like massage can make a big difference for some people when it comes to taming arthritis pain and stiffness.

Discover seven strategies that can help ease arthritis aches and make everyday activities more manageable.

What to Eat When You Have Arthritis

An arthritis diet follows the same principles as an overall healthy diet, like packing in fruits and veggies.
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Some people with arthritis might find symptom relief by changing what they eat. That's because arthritis is caused by inflammation, and some foods have the ability to help tamp down this "fire" in the body.

"At the root of the pathology of arthritis is chronic and unchecked inflammation," says Liz Wyosnick, RDN, dietitian and owner of Equilibriyum in Seattle, Washington. "Diet can absolutely impact arthritis by either exacerbating inflammatory symptoms or by quieting inflammation."

The Mediterranean diet is often cited as a good diet for arthritis, since it focuses on anti-inflammatory foods such as fruits, veggies and fatty fish like salmon. The diet has been linked to many other benefits, too, including better weight control and heart health.

Get the full breakdown on which foods to include in your daily meals and which are better to limit or avoid.

The Best Exercises for Arthritis

When you do them regularly, simple exercises like stretching can aid in alleviating joint pain and stiffness.
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Although the aches and pains that often come with arthritis can make exercise feel like the last thing you want to do, a regular workout routine can reduce pain, improve joint function and boost the quality of life of people with arthritis, according to the CDC.

If you're new to working out, you'll want to start slow and be prepared for some soreness. But don't let that deter you — find a way to move that you truly enjoy, and stick with it, even if it's just for a few minutes each day.

"Any exercise for somebody with arthritis who's sedentary is going to be helpful," says Brian Andonian, MD, a rheumatologist and assistant professor of medicine at Duke University School of Medicine. "Every little bit adds up."

See the four best types of workouts for people with arthritis, along with some precautions to follow.

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Is This an Emergency?

If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911. If you think you may have COVID-19, use the CDC’s Coronavirus Self-Checker before leaving the house.