7 Joint Pain Triggers That Can Make RA Worse

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Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic health condition in which your body’s immune system mistakenly attacks your joints and other tissues, causing pain, swelling, and fatigue. Early treatment is the best way to slow and even prevent joint damage caused by RA, according to the 2021 American College of Rheumatology (ACR) Guideline for the Treatment of Rheumatoid Arthritis . This will help you live a healthier life and preserve your mobility. There are also lifestyle habits you can adjust to help support your RA treatment plan and reduce joint pain. It helps to be aware of these common joint pain triggers and take steps to prevent them.
Smoking Not only is smoking linked to an increased risk for developing RA, but continuing to smoke if you do have RA can make joint pain worse. “Smoking makes it harder for RA treatment to be effective,” says Kevin Deane, MD, PhD , a rheumatologist and associate professor of medicine at the University of Colorado School of Medicine Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora. People with RA who continue to smoke have higher levels of certain chemical markers in their body that show ongoing disease activity and joint damage, even with treatment, according to research . “Smoking has also been associated with higher pain scores, more active disease, and lower likelihood of achieving disease remission among people with RA,” says Ashima Makol, MBBS , an assistant professor of medicine in the division of rheumatology at the Mayo Clinic School of Medicine in Rochester, Minnesota. If you need help quitting smoking, talk to your doctor.
Not Eating Enough Omega-3s Foods rich in inflammation-fighting omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon and other cold-water fish, may help fight pain related to RA. The National Institutes of Health notes that increased omega-3 intake could help manage RA and complement other treatments. According to a meta-analysis , consuming omega-3 fatty acids was found to improve RA, including reducing inflammation. You can get them by eating more fish, flaxseed, and foods fortified with omega-3s or taking supplements, as recommended by your physician.
Putting Off Treatment Waiting to talk to your doctor about your RA symptoms can make it harder to get joint pain under control, which is why the Arthritis Foundation recommends early and aggressive treatment. “Catching RA early is the most important thing people can do to make sure joint pain doesn’t get worse,” Dr. Deane says. “The majority of joint damage and cartilage destruction has been noted in people with RA during their first two years of disease, and this has a strong impact on long-term function, disability, and mortality,” Dr. Makol adds. “This is why the first six months to a year after disease onset is considered a precious window of opportunity during which doctors target disease remission as the goal, or trying to achieve minimal to no disease activity.” Prompt treatment with disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) or biologics can help slow the progression of RA and prevent joint damage, according to the ACR guidelines. Talk to your doctor, who can help create an RA treatment plan that’s right for you.
Living a Sedentary Lifestyle “As with many forms of arthritis, ‘motion is lotion,’ meaning that some form of physical activity and exercise is beneficial,” says Makol. People with arthritis who exercise regularly have better daily functioning, more energy, and less pain, according to the American College of Rheumatology . A sedentary lifestyle can harm your health in many ways, from increasing your risk for heart disease to further damaging your joints. “A lack of muscle strength can mean a lack of joint protection,” Deane says. “Exercise and physical activity also seem to have some anti-inflammatory effects that may have benefits for people with RA.” You don’t need to run a marathon to reap the benefits of exercise. “Low-impact aerobic exercises incorporating some strength training, joint protection principles, and stretching for flexibility are most optimal for people with RA,” says Makol. Talk to your doctor or physical therapist about creating a personalized exercise plan that works for you.
Doing High-Impact Exercise Exercise is important for building muscle strength and protecting your joints, but high-impact activities, such as running, may cause joint pain during an RA flare or in cases of advanced disease. When joints are inflamed, don’t force yourself to do more than feels comfortable, the Arthritis Foundation recommends. Instead, try gentle range-of-motion exercises such as stretching to keep your joints flexible. Once the flare is over, start exercising again slowly with low-impact aerobic activities, such as walking, and gradually increase the intensity of your workouts.
Stressing Out “Stress comes as part and parcel of having a chronic disease, undergoing long-term treatment, monitoring, and medical bills,” says Makol. Stress in daily life may also increase joint pain by altering your immune function and exacerbating your RA. Researchers are still trying to understand the connection between RA and stress , but stress can clearly affect how people with RA feel. “Stress can make perceived symptoms worse,” Deane says. Need to reduce your stress? “Talking with a therapist or using other means of stress reduction like meditation, deep-breathing techniques, or guided imagery can be helpful for better control of RA in the long term,” Makol suggests.
Being Overweight Excess weight puts additional stress on your joints, and that can make RA symptoms worse and increase your risk for other health problems, such as heart disease. According to one study , obesity is common in people with RA and associated with RA disease activity. Losing weight and maintaining a healthy weight may help improve your quality of life and the success of your treatment strategies. If you need to lose weight or aren’t sure if your body weight is healthy, ask your doctor for input. Additional reporting by Erica Patino.

6 Great Yoga Poses to Help With Asthma

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Yoga can help increase breath and body awareness, slow your respiratory rate, and promote calm and relieve stress — all of which are beneficial for people who have asthma, says Judi Bar , certified yoga therapist and yoga program manager at Cleveland Clinic Wellness. While there currently isn’t research that says yoga can definitively control asthma symptoms, studies have shown that yoga can help people with asthma control breathing and reduce stress, which is a common asthma trigger. One study review looked at the effect of yoga in patients with asthma, finding that yoga “probably leads to small improvements in quality of life and symptoms in people with asthma.” “There can be outside forces, such as allergens and toxins, that may trigger an asthma attack,” says Bar. “While we can’t always necessarily avoid some triggers, we can use yoga to try to generally stay calm and have breath and body awareness, and that may be able to at least take a layer off the severity of the attack, if not help prevent it.” Doing yoga routinely can have a cumulative effect, says Bar. If you begin to feel an asthma attack coming on, you can use breath awareness to slow down and remain calm. During an asthma attack, Bar adds, we use any muscles we can to try to breathe, and as a result, our muscles get very tight; stretching the shoulders, back, side, and breathing muscles routinely is great conditioning for getting those muscles in the habit of relaxing in the event of an asthma attack. “You can do a relaxation pose every day and do one or two of the body stretches daily,” says Bar. “It won’t take very long.” And best of all, there are secondary benefits of yoga, such as a feeling of peace, increased mobility, better flexibility, and improved balance, says Bar. Simply put, yoga may help provide some asthma relief, and can lead to a host of other health benefits. The key, says Bar, is to find a practice that’s accessible for you and doesn’t cause you anxiety — start slow, and be careful not to push yourself to do anything that is uncomfortable or could lead to strain or injury. Here are some great yoga poses to try for asthma relief: RELATED: How Yoga Benefits Your Health and Well-Being The uttanasana and other basic yoga poses can help you learn to stay calm and control your breath, possibly reducing the severity of an asthma attack.
Savasana Tamal Dodge, a yoga instructor in Los Angeles and star of the DVD Element: Hatha & Flow Yoga for Beginners , recommends the savasana pose for asthma relief because of the breath and stress management it provides. How to Do It Lie on your back with your arms at your sides and your feet and palms dropped open. Close your eyes and soften your jaw, taking your focus inward. Start to focus your attention on your breath and slow it down, making it deep and rhythmic, relaxing every part of your body. Stay in the pose for 5 to 10 minutes, maintaining slow, even breathing. Modification If you have trouble lying down on the floor, you can also do this pose on a bed or other flat surface to get the same benefits, says Bar.
Sukhasana Just like savasana, say Dodge, sukhasana is another relaxing pose and its focus on breath and stress control makes it a great exercise to help asthma. How to Do It Start seated, with your legs crossed. If you feel some discomfort in your hips or lower back, roll up a towel and place it under your sit bones for extra support. Take your right hand and place it on your heart, place the left hand on your belly, and close your eyes. Draw in the stomach and lift the chest for good posture, according to MedlinePlus . Let out your breath slowly and hold the pose for five minutes, with slow, even breathing. Modification Sit straight on a chair if you are not able to sit comfortably on the floor, says Bar. Keep your back against the back of the chair for a seated mountain pose. Start with your arms relaxed at your sides and then reach with your arms over your head and interlace the fingers and hold for 30 seconds to one minute while breathing slowly; lower your arms then repeat several times.
Uttanasana Dodge says this bending pose can open up the chest, to possibly ease breathing. This pose stretches the back muscles, helps you breathe more deeply, and is calming, says Bar. How to Do It Stand with your legs hip-width apart, fold your body forward, and put a little bend in the knees to relieve any strain in the lower back. Fold your arms, holding each elbow with the opposite hand, and let your body hang as you take five deep breaths with your eyes closed. Modification If you have low blood pressure or are prone to getting woozy when you bend over, use a chair instead. Either stand in front of the chair and lean forward or grab the back of a chair and bend forward.
Seated Spinal Twist This pose promotes calm and targets your torso, back, and respiratory muscles — the diaphragm, the intercostal muscles, as well as your abdominal and neck muscles. How to Do It While seated on the floor or forward on the seat of a chair, place your right hand on the floor or seat of the chair. Then slowly bring your left hand to the outside of your right knee and lengthen your spine, gently twisting your torso as you move. Gently look over your right shoulder. Breathe in and out slowly, inhaling as you picture your spine lengthening and relaxing. Hold for a breath or two and return to center. Repeat on the other side. Modification This pose can also be done while lying on your back on the floor. On your mat, bring your knees up to your chest. Let your knees fall slowly toward the floor to your right as you gently turn your upper body to the left. If you can, bring your arms up and over to your left as you gently let your head fall to the left. Hold this pose for a breath or two and then repeat on the other side.
Trikonasana This pose “opens up” the side of your body and lungs, says Bar. How to Do It Stand with your feet about hip-width apart. Gently pull in your belly for support but make sure it’s relaxed enough so that your diaphragm does the work as you breathe. Put your right hand on your right hip, turn your left palm out, and lift your left arm over your head as you bend slowly to the right. Breathe in and out slowly as you hold the pose for a couple of breaths and then repeat on the other side.
Bhujangasana With this pose, you stretch your chest and neck muscles. How to Do It Lie on your front on your mat with your feet pointed behind you and place your hands on either side, palms down on the floor, right beneath your shoulders. As you begin to lift up, slide your elbows under your shoulders and reach your fingers forward; press your shoulders down as you hold in sphinx pose. If you wish to go further, slowly straighten your arms as you lift your chest up further off the floor. Breathe in and out as you gaze in front of you, keeping your chin parallel to the ground with a long spine. Modification Sit on a chair and with your feet flat on the floor, reach behind you and grab the back of the chair with your hands. Lean forward as much as you feel comfortable while pulling your shoulders back and straightening your elbows. Breathe in and out as you hold the pose and visualize taking your weight off your chest so that your lungs can breathe and move easily. If this doesn’t feel comfortable, you can modify the pose further by standing and looking up slightly as you inhale and exhale several times, stretching the front of your neck. Next, drop your chin to your chest as you exhale to stretch the back muscles of your neck. Additional reporting by Katherine Lee.

COVID-19 Variant ‘Eris’ Becomes Dominant After 6 Straight Weeks of Rising Hospitalizations

Posted from: https://www.everydayhealth.com/coronavirus/new-covid-19-variant-eg5-may-be-driving-uptick-in-infections/

This story has been updated with the latest case numbers. It was originally published August 9.
One predictable thing about COVID-19 is its ability to rapidly mutate. Just over a month ago, the XBB.1.5 variant accounted for the largest percentage of reported coronavirus cases in the United States (nearly 17 percent), according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) . But the latest numbers, published at the end of August, show that the fast-spreading EG.5 variant has now taken the lead, making up more than 20 percent of infections, while XBB.1.5 has dropped down to just under 5 percent of COVID cases. EU.1.1 , a variant on the rise earlier this summer, never gained real traction and appears to have petered out. Nicknamed “Eris,” EG.5 is an offshoot of omicron, just like its XBB relatives. The data suggest that it is very transmissible and may be contributing to an uptick in new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations . Health authorities are also keeping close tabs on the heavily mutated BA.2.86 variant (nicknamed Pirola ) and newer versions of XBB that have been emerging. Hospitalizations, Positive Tests, and ER Visits All Rise For the week ending August 19, COVID-related hospital admissions rose 18.8 percent nationally compared with the week before, with more than 15,000 people newly admitted, according to the CDC COVID Data Tracker . This marks the sixth consecutive week that hospitalizations have increased. Still, the numbers are much lower than last summer, when weekly COVID-19 hospitalizations hit a peak of nearly 43,000. Emergency room visits have also been swelling — up 19.4 percent in latest CDC tracking . RELATED: Should You Get a COVID Booster Now or Wait for the Updated One? Visits among young infants between birth and age 1 have markedly jumped, per the CDC . “This may, in part, be related to the fact that we only immunize children older than 6 months for COVID-19,” says Dean Winslow, MD , an infectious-disease specialist and a professor of medicine at Stanford University in California. “Note the CDC data show that RSV and influenza both also caused many increased emergency department visits.” Dr. Winslow stresses that it’s important for older children and all adults to be up-to-date on immunizations, as detailed by the CDC , to protect young children in a household from infections, since they are too young to receive most of these vaccines. Positive COVID-19 test results have also been ticking up. The CDC’s latest tracking shows a 1.4 percent rise, to 14.9 percent. States with the highest percentage of positive COVID-19 tests currently include Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Texas, per the CDC. The increase in EG.5 is not isolated to the United States. The World Health Organization (WHO) issued a risk evaluation recently, stating that there has been a steady increase in the proportion of EG.5 infections reported globally, but that the health threat posed by the variant is low and similar to other circulating variants. The WHO’s variant tracking revealed that EG.5 is the only variant showing an increase right now. “Clearly, EG.5 is outcompeting the other variants fairly quickly, but based on the data that I have seen, it’s less virulent than earlier variants like delta, which caused a huge amount of mortality,” says Winslow. In its weekly update of August 30, the WHO reported that COVID cases increased 63 percent globally over the previous 28 days. Overall COVID-19 Threat Remains Low With test positivity rising, COVID-19 certainly appears to be spreading, but it’s not causing serious illness in large numbers of people. Even though there has been a surge in hospitalizations, numbers are still low in most of the country, per the CDC. In the newest CDC reporting , COVID-19 was related to just 2 percent of all deaths in the country. “Human pathogens [like the COVID virus] tend to evolve in order to more easily spread from person to person, so it’s not a great survival advantage for them to be more lethal,” says Winslow. He adds that evidence suggests that vaccination may be preventing much of the serious illness, hospitalization, and death. An updated vaccine expected to be available this fall should be even more effective against circulating strains, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration . According to Peter Chin-Hong, MD , a professor of medicine at the University of California in San Francisco who specializes in infectious diseases, the new vaccine will be a closer match to variants such as EG.5, which are expected to dominate in the months ahead. “Although the planned vaccine is based on XBB.1.5, EG.5, which is dominant right now, is so closely related that the vaccine should provide similar protection as it does for XBB.1.5,” says Dr. Chin-Hong. Certain Groups Remain More Vulnerable to Severe COVID-19 As the CDC stresses, specific groups of people are more at risk of getting very sick from COVID-19. Adults ages 50 and older are more likely to need hospitalization, intensive care, or a ventilator to help them breathe. Most COVID-related deaths occur in people older than 65. Individuals who are immunocompromised (have a weakened immune system) because of a medical condition or from immunosuppressive medications or treatments also face greater odds of severe illness, says the CDC . Underlying health conditions such as obesity, chronic pulmonary obstructive disorder, and heart disease heighten this risk as well. Another group that has weakened defenses against the virus and can become very sick from infections are pregnant individuals and those who were recently pregnant. Public health authorities advise those at increased risk to talk with a healthcare provider about taking extra precautions, such as wearing a mask, when hospital admission levels in their communities are medium or higher. What Are the Symptoms of Eris? Should I Get Tested for COVID-19? To help stop coronavirus spread, especially to these more vulnerable populations, Winslow urges everyone to get tested for COVID-19 if they have upper respiratory systems. “Newer COVID-19 variants have very mild symptoms in general compared to the earlier variants, and can very much mimic the common cold,” he says. Common COVID-19 symptoms include: Sore throat Runny or stuffy nose Sneezing Coughing with or without phlegm Headache Body aches and pains An altered sense of smell “Most of us would want to know if we’re actually infected with COVID-19 so we can be especially careful and maybe avoid elderly relatives and others who are at greater risk of severe illness,” Winslow adds. Since the nationwide public health emergency due to COVID-19 ended in May of this year, free testing has become harder to find. But the CDC offers an online tool to help people without health insurance find no-cost testing.