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Arthritis is a condition involving joint pain and inflammation.

More than 100 types of arthritis have been identified, and there are very likely others. Combined, these make up one of the most common chronic ailments in the country.

Osteoarthritis is the most common form, and is sometimes called “wear and tear” arthritis because it tends to come with age. This occurs when cartilage, the cushioning material in joints, has been worn down by years of activity and injuries.It is common in the knees, hips, neck, hands, and shoulders, but can affect any joint.

Arthritis symptoms include joints that are often stiff, swollen, red, warm, and sore or tender to the touch. For many, the symptoms are worse in the morning, but improve throughout the day as movement can lubricate the joints.

Major risk factors for arthritis are genetics and being overweight, but they are not the only factors. Aging, weak muscles, repetitive motions, and joint injuries are other risk factors. Chronic inflammation, which contributes to many diseases, plays an important role, too.

In conventional medicine, treatment for arthritis can include over-the-counter pain relievers, to prescription medication, steroids, injectable remedies, and even joint replacement surgery.

Integrative medicine recommends lifestyle and diet changes, eliminating foods that cause inflammation, like sugar, unhealthy fats, dairy products, factory farmed meat, especially red meat, and processed meats, like bologna, sausage, and hot dogs.

Exercise has proven to be helpful, because strong muscles provide support for joints. Nutritional supplements – curcumin, essential fatty acids (EFAs), and glucosamine – can make a big difference, too.

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