Tame the Pain: Arthritis andJoint Relief

Two-thirds of the more than 4.6 million Canadians diagnosed with arthritis are women. Find out if you’re at risk of getting the disease.

What you may not be aware of is that two-thirds of the more than 4.6 million Canadians diagnosed with the disease are women. What’s more, after 50, the frequency of osteoarthritis (inflammation of the joint caused by the erosion of its protective cartilage) is significantly greater in women. A post-menopausal decrease of estrogen is thought to be a culprit; the hormone is key in triggering production of cartilage building blocks: collagen and proteoglycans.

That the prevalence among women is often overlooked prompted Shoppers Drug Mart to work with the Arthritis Consumer Experts and Arthritis Research Centre of Canada in developing a screening tool designed for women. With the online tool, a woman identifies joint pain to determine her risk of arthritis so she can explore treatment options and consider health-care professionals such as physiotherapists and dietitians in addition to her family doctor.

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Rahim Ismail says a consultation with him or any of the pharmacists at more than 1,180 Shoppers locations across Canada can inform women about things like gender-specific risks. “Studies have shown women get more knee injuries. The reason is women tend to favour the quadriceps muscles to stabilize their knees rather than their stronger hamstrings and gluteal muscles, in the back of the thigh. During strenuous activity, that over-reliance on the quadriceps strains the ligaments and leads to being more vulnerable to injury,” he explains.

Kim Arrey’s osteoarthritis resulted from an injury sustained nearly two decades before her diagnosis. Looking for more than medication, the 56-year-old registered dietitian co-wrote The Complete Arthritis Health, Diet Guide & Cookbook with Dr. Michael Starr. Arrey believes in a multidisciplinary approach and says sufferers need to pay attention to what they eat and how they cook it to control inflammation – a symptom trigger.

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“We do more barbecuing in the summer, so I eat more foods that have that nice caramelization, and my arthritis bothers me more.” She recommends food journals to determine dietary triggers and includes a list of the 20 most common pro-inflammatory foods for readers.