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How to Decrease Your Chances of Getting Arthritis

With over two decades of experience in medicine, Melissa Flagg writes patient education articles, keeping you informed about your health.

Arthritis is a painful disease. Unfortunately, it is a part of the aging process, so most of us will suffer with it at some point in our lives. Some people, like myself, develop arthritis early in life, usually through some type of injury, or repetitive movement. Others may inherit the disease.

There are over 100 different types of arthritis. The majority of these are fairly rare. Only about 12 of them commonly occur in the general population. Some of the most common types are:

  • Osteoarthritis
  • Osteoporosis
  • Osteopenia
  • Gout
  • Degenerative Joint Disease
  • Scleroderma
  • Sarcoidosis
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Bursitis
  • Sjogren's syndrome

Understanding Arthritis

The term arthritis comes from the Greek arthro meaning “joint,” and –itis, which means inflammation. It is essentially inflammation of the joints, which are those bendable parts of our body like the knees, elbows, hips, and shoulders among others.

These joints are surrounded by tough, yet flexible connective tissue as well as ligaments and muscles that hold the bones together and allow us to move. Many of the joints like the knees, hips and ankles are put under tremendous force every day. This pressure is exacerbated by various activities, such as high impact aerobics, and obesity.

Osteoarthritis of the Hand

Severe osteoarthritis and osteopenia (loss of bone mineral density) of the carpal joint and 1st carpometacarpal joint.

Severe osteoarthritis and osteopenia (loss of bone mineral density) of the carpal joint and 1st carpometacarpal joint.

Different types of arthritis affect different tissues surrounding the joints.

For example, osteoarthritis, sometimes called degenerative joint disease, specifically affects the ends of the bones, the part which makes the connection of the joint and is composed of mainly cartilage (see illustration below).

The bones are separated by a cavity filled with liquid called synovial fluid. This is essentially the oil that keeps the hinge gliding smoothly and prevents friction. In osteoarthritis, the cartilage at the end of the bone begins to breakdown, causing inflammation.

Arthritic inflammation can be caused by damage to the joint itself, or the surrounding tissues. This can be caused by a number of different things, most notably traumatic injury (either to the joint or the muscles), normal wear and tear on the joints (in the case of aging) or excessive wear and tear caused by obesity.

Heredity can also play an important role in the onset of arthritis. Although, it should be noted that joint pain can often be a sign of other systemic diseases such as hepatitis, inflammatory bowel syndrome, Lyme disease, and even psoriasis.

Anatomy of a Joint

Symptoms of Arthritis

There is a common set of symptoms for arthritis, regardless of what type it is. Some of those symptoms include:

  • Muscle aches and pains that occur regularly or are constant
  • Muscle weakness
  • Malaise (an indefinite feeling of debility)
  • Weight loss
  • Inability to sleep (insomnia), or poor quality sleep
  • Difficulty moving the joints
  • Joint pain, even when not moving
  • Cracking of joints after sitting for long periods (especially the hip and knees)
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These symptoms can vary in intensity, and duration. Some people may have every symptom, others may have just one or two. Arthritis affects everyone differently.

Osteoarthritis in a Left Knee

Our joints are extraordinary devices. They are constantly subjected to wear and tear and continue to function, but like anything else they tend to breakdown after a while.

Think of an older car (mine’s a good example). My car has close to 200,000 miles on it, and was manufactured in 1996, so in car time, it’s about 65 years old (around there anyway). It squeaks, and makes all kinds of weird noises, and doesn’t run as well as a brand new car. But, because I’ve kept up with the maintenance and only put synthetic oil in it, it runs surprisingly well for its age.

The same applies to our bodies. If we take care of the maintenance (exercise) and only put synthetic oil in it (a well-balanced diet) it’s going to run surprisingly well after a few 100,000 miles. While arthritis can’t be completely prevented, especially traumatic arthritis (unless you plan to live in a bubble), there are ways to prevent getting the disorder prematurely. Nutrition is one of the main preventative treatments.

Rheumatoid Arthritis in the Hand

Poor diet and a lack of vitamins and minerals can wreak havoc on the body. In people who eat meat, especially a lot of it, osteoarthritis and osteoporosis can be a major problem. Why? Glad you asked.

Animal products, especially red meats and milk, cause an acidic pH in the body. To neutralize this acidic state, the body uses up its most readily available antacid: calcium. Where does the calcium come from? The body strips it from the bones, which allows osteoporosis and osteoarthritis to set in because the bones are weakened.

While I highly recommend veganism and vegetarianism, I know it’s not an option for many people. But that doesn’t mean you can’t prevent the acidic pH. Limiting how much meat and dairy you consume to no more than three times a week can go a long way. Taking extra calcium supplements (NOT by increasing your intake of milk) will also help alleviate the risk of an acidic pH.

Vitamins and Supplements for Arthritis

I’m a huge health nut. Even though I’m vegan, I take a multitude of vitamins several times a day.

Most of my vitamin supplements are meant to be a treatment for osteoarthritis, which I suffer from in my neck and hips, and I have noticed quite a bit of improvement in my symptoms.

There are several vitamins that you should consider if you are at risk for any type of arthritis or wanting to prevent it.

I’ll discuss a few of the most common and most effective vitamins for the treatment of arthritis including:

  • Vitamin C
  • Niacin
  • Pyridoxine
  • Vitamin D
  • Vitamin A
  • Zinc
Vitamins and other supplements can greatly reduce your risk of developing arthritis.

Vitamins and other supplements can greatly reduce your risk of developing arthritis.

Vitamin C

Most forms of arthritis are autoimmune diseases. The immune system begins to attack healthy tissue and cells. It is not yet fully understood what causes this to happen; however, there are many theories.

One of these theories is that autoimmune diseases are caused by a lack of vitamin C. This little vitamin keeps the immune system from running rampant.

Vitamin C has been used to treat cancer, which is a perfect example of its control over the immune system. Essentially, and without all the biochemistry, cancer is a defect in the immune system, which is responsible for turning the body's healing process on and off.

Tumors are the result of the immune system “forgetting” to hit the off switch. Vitamin C prevents this from happening by “reminding” the immune system to turn off after the healing process is completed.

In the case of arthritis, vitamin C prevents the immune system from attacking the tissues of the joints, but it also is a vital part of keeping those tissues healthy. Vitamin C is essential for the production of collagen, which is the building block of connective tissue, the tissue that surrounds the joints.


Niacin is a B vitamin, specifically B3, and its effects on arthritis have been studied extensively since the Great Depression by Dr. William Kaufman, M.D., Ph.D.

It increases blood flow through the vasculature of the body, especially the capillaries. This increased blood flow reduces inflammation in the joints and relaxes muscles. It also allows the joints to move fluidly, reducing the amount of wear and tear to which they are subjected.

Niacin must be taken in supplement form in order to consume enough of the vitamin for it to have an effect on arthritis. This is because there is no way to get enough of it from our daily diet. Even for vegetarians, it is impossible to get enough niacin from the foods we eat. Veggies, meats and dairy products just don't contain enough.

Pyridoxine, Vitamins D and A, Zinc

Pyridoxine, or vitamin B6, has been shown to be effective in the treatment of arthritis in combination with Vitamins A and D, as well as zinc.

As a B vitamin, Pyridoxine increases blood flow and helps regulate hormones (especially in females), which can help prevent and alleviate inflammation.

Vitamin D may be obvious because it helps the body absorb and use calcium, which can help prevent osteoarthritis and osteoporsis. But it also helps combat inflammation and regulate hormones, which can prevent inflammation from getting started.

However, patients with sarcoidosis, or lupus erythematosus should be evaluated by a physician prior to starting a vitamin D supplement.

Vitamin A affects bone metabolism, and the immune system. When taken in combination with vitamin D, it has been shown to be very effective in the prevention and treatment of arthritis, especially osteoarthritis.

Zinc is well-known for its effects on the immune system. But it also affects the endocrine system and can interfere with the menstrual cycle if a woman has a deficiency. The human body only needs about 15 mg of zinc per day. A 50 mg pill of zinc is the equivalent of 15 mg once the body has converted it.

I discussed these four supplements together because they all work best for preventing arthritis when taken together. In addition, creating a regimen of calcium and magnesium along with niacin and vitamin C can be a very effective combination against arthritis.

Arthritis and Exercise

Last, but definitely not least, is exercise. For those with rheumatoid arthritis, minimal exercise (such as very light walking) can be helpful, but even moderate exercise can exacerbate problems. To prevent rheumatoid arthritis, however, exercise (along with a healthy diet) can be very effective.

For those with other forms of arthritis, particularly osteoarthritis, exercise is better than pain killers. I know this from personal experience. Cardio exercises and light weightlifting are excellent for treating joints affected by osteoarthritis.

The endorphins released during these types of exercises are enough to alleviate the majority of inflammation, which in turn alleviates the stiff sensation of the joints. The movement prevents further accumulation of inflammation, breaking the vicious cycle.

The endorphins also alleviate free radicals. Free radicals cause inflammation when left to build up in the body, which is why taking antioxidants is so effective.But the endorphins released from exercising helps flush most free radicals from the system, as does the amount of water we drink during exercise.

Following a balanced and highly nutritional diet, getting enough exercise and taking vitamin supplements can not only alleviate arthritis symptoms in patients already suffering the disease, but can also prevent arthritis from developing prematurely. A healthy lifestyle can also help prevent the disease from advancing.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2012 Mel Flagg COA OSC


Juliette Kando FI Chor from Andalusia, southern Spain on February 13, 2019:

Is it better to get vitamins from foods or pills? My gut feeling tells me it is better to get vitamins from real food as some research suggests that artificial vitamins have no effect whatsoever, some of them may even be harmful.

Mel Flagg COA OSC (author) from Rural Central Florida on November 20, 2012:

@phoenix, you know it's funny the winters down here in Fl aren't that bad, but they still cause a great deal of stiffness and pain. I think it's the lack of humidity during the winter months, although when it rains the pain gets worse too, so it's a half dozen of one and 6 of another. lol :D

8,000mg is good, that's where I started. I do have to increase my current dose every now and then when I get sick, so keep that in mind if you ever get a cold or other illness. But I doubt you will now that you're taking in enough of the vitamin! :D

Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon from United Kingdom on November 20, 2012:

Yes, might right hand aches terribly during the winter months. How much of that is due to nerve damage from my prolapsed neck discs and how much is due to the onset of arthritis I can't say. All I know is it makes for a very long winter. On the bright side at least the winters where I live aren't as fierce as New York winters.

I'm at 8000mg. I could probably go higher but I don't feel I need to.

Mel Flagg COA OSC (author) from Rural Central Florida on November 19, 2012:

@effer lmao Funny that you bring that up, I have the same gray hairs my mother does, and the same arthritis that her mother had. Now hopefully I won't get anymore of dad's genes. I got his personality and analytical nature, but I'll pass on the whole prostate cancer thing! ;)

Mel Flagg COA OSC (author) from Rural Central Florida on November 19, 2012:

@phoenix, I'm so glad the vit C is working for you, how much are you up to now? I had to back off a bit about a month ago. I'm down to about 4,000mg a day now, which only means that my body needed the vit C to heal, and now I'm at my normal requirement. I love it when what I read is accurate lol. Winter is always bad on my arthritis actually, I'm sure you notice the same problem. If it's not one thing its another!

10% sounds good to me lol :D

Mel Flagg COA OSC (author) from Rural Central Florida on November 19, 2012:

@drmiddlebrook Thank you! Indeed it is the thief of mobility. Unfortunately there are good days and bad days as well which makes dealing with it that much worse!

Mel Flagg COA OSC (author) from Rural Central Florida on November 19, 2012:

@Pamela99 That's a double whammy!! So sorry you have to suffer with that. Osteoarthritis is enough, but lupus on top of that? Fish isn't a bad idea actually. The omega 3 fatty acids can be very beneficial, of course you can always take a fish oil pill instead lol.

Poultry and eggs have always made me ill at the thought of them, and I've ALWAYS hated milk, the taste of it was enough to make me hate it, but I was also lactose intolerant and didn't know it until I got much older. I think I was always just meant to be a vegan. It does make a huge difference in my pain levels. Hopefully it does the same for you!

Suzie from Carson City on November 19, 2012:

DoM.....Hey.....I have my mother's body, her same age spots in the same places, her grey hairs in the same clusters, same cholesterol problem, and YES, same arthritis of the same joints.........Fortunately, I have her GOOD aspects as well....add that to my Dad's near perfection....and I'm doing all right. I hate to be greedy!

Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon from United Kingdom on November 17, 2012:


Vit C therapy is going well, thank you. It's part of daily routine now and I'm better for it.

I am sorry to about your neck problems. I can sympathize as my neck has been playing up recently. I think it's stress. Oh well, it's the card we've been dealt but we will play on.

As far as publishing, I would expect the standard 15% fee per sale. No, I'm just kidding. 10% will be fine cause I like you so much. lol

Mel Flagg COA OSC (author) from Rural Central Florida on November 16, 2012:

@Phoenix, thank you! :D If you do print all my hubs, could you just go ahead and publish the book for me, it would save me a heap of time ;)

Arthritis runs rampant in my family. SO I was pretty much doomed if I got an injury, I'd get Osteoarthritis!! (Ya then I had the car accident and well... YAY Osteoarthritis just eating away at my vertebrae! lol. How goes it with the vitamin C by the way? :)

Mel Flagg COA OSC (author) from Rural Central Florida on November 16, 2012:

@Rver Lyn One of the people that got me hooked on veganism and the "plant strong diet" was Rip Esselstyn, a huge fan of Bragg's especially their amino acid complex. I'll shoot you an email, I'd be interested in reading the summary. I'd like to compare it to my own experience just for kicks and giggles :D

Mel Flagg COA OSC (author) from Rural Central Florida on November 16, 2012:

@Mr. Happy, thank you for the tip, quick question, when you say grease, ore you talking about like grease you'd find on your car? lol Sap from Cedar trees makes a lot of sense though, thanks for mentioning that.

Mel Flagg COA OSC (author) from Rural Central Florida on November 16, 2012:

@rasta1 Indeed!! It's one of those well kept secrets. One that the medical community doesn't seem to want getting out. And I spent 16 years in medicine! lol

Mel Flagg COA OSC (author) from Rural Central Florida on November 16, 2012:

@Mary Merriment, thank you!! And congrats on already walking that path. Fantastic!! I know when I started following all this advice I noticed a huge change in my pain levels! So I know for a fact it works!! :D

Mel Flagg COA OSC (author) from Rural Central Florida on November 16, 2012:

@Peanutritious sounds like you're well on your way to prevention. I know I feel much better after going vegan. Meat just wore me down so much. The exercise keeps me limber, and I notice I have a lot less pain when I exercise daily. Stress is definitely a huge problem, and only exacerbates an already large problem!! If only we could get rid of stress... lol

Mel Flagg COA OSC (author) from Rural Central Florida on November 16, 2012:

@billybuc, I know, they are pretty gruesome! If you think those are bad though, you'd really have issues if you saw the MRI of my neck!! lol Thanks for stopping by!! Good to hear from you!

Mel Flagg COA OSC (author) from Rural Central Florida on November 16, 2012:

@RVer Lyn, Emotional baggage does have a huge impact on these types of diseases, and I believe requires a whole hub in and of itself, it's just that complex of a topic. It's on my list! :D Congrats on being free of RA for 18 years, that's just awesome!

Sallie B Middlebrook PhD from Texas, USA on November 16, 2012:

Thank you so much for this. It is so informative and so very well written. I knew some of this already, because I read a lot about the effects of calcium deficiency as well as about arthritis, the thief of mobility. Voted up and useful!

Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon from United Kingdom on November 15, 2012:

Another educational hub. If I printed all you health hubs and bound them together, I would have quite a useful guide for health living. Instead I just bookmark them so I can refer to them as and when needed.

My mother had arthritis and I often wondered what my chances are of developing it too. I have to admit I was disappointed to read the chance are good but at least now I know what I can do to help myself. Thanks.

Voted up, interesting and useful. Socially shared.

Lynda Slater Madaghiele from Full-time RVer around North America on November 15, 2012:

In addition to becoming more of a vegetarian, I have discovered a really great way nutritionally to achieve more of an alkaline status: Bragg's apple cider vinegar (with the "Mother") and raw organic honey.

A few years ago, I read several books on the Bragg's Healthy Lifestyle. The information made a lot of sense to me and has made it much easier to change my eating habits. I actually have a summary of what my husband and I did and the great results we are still enjoying. If you're interested, just email me at (This is NOT an mlm, and I don't make any money. My summary is free.)

Mr. Happy from Toronto, Canada on November 15, 2012:


I just stopped-by to mention that the sap from a Cedar tree, mixed with grease and rubbed on hurting joints may help with arthritis pain. A natural remedy which can only help, in my opinion and it costs nothing (except time and the energy to find grease and Cedar sap).

All the best to everyone and thank You for writing this article - I am sure many people will find it helpful.


Marvin Parke from Jamaica on November 15, 2012:

It is ironic that most people consume calcium rich foods to their own detriment. I am glad that you brought this issue to light, because calcium will not be absorbed without vitamin C and the other nutrients you listed.

Mary Roark from Boise area, Idaho on November 15, 2012:

Very useful information about arthritis and how to reduce getting it. Hopefully, I'm on the path to reduce risks as I am following all of the mentioned advice.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on November 15, 2012:

I also suffer from osteoarthritis and lupus arthritis. This is a very thorough, well written hub with a wealth of information. I take many of those vitamins, but may add 2 now. I eat vegetarian about 90% of the time and should go all the way. I still eat fish, some poultry and eggs, but no milk, other meat or cheese. It sounds like your plan is working well for you. Thank for writing such an informative hub.

Tara Carbery from Cheshire, UK on November 15, 2012:

An excellent and well researched article. I'm vegetarian and take a multi vitamin especially for vegetarians each day. I also exercise quite a lot now including body pump which is exercising with weights. My grandparents had arthritis, i'm hoping I won't inherit it! I like the comment about staying positive, I really think that makes a huge difference to your health and well being.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on November 15, 2012:

Great article my friend; very interesting and useful. Those pictures are ugly! Thankfully I do not have this problem....yet!

Lynda Slater Madaghiele from Full-time RVer around North America on November 15, 2012:

Thanks for a great article! Very extensive research and information. As a person who HAD active rheumatoid arthritis more than 18 years ago, I found that releasing negative emotional stress regarding past events and relationships in my life was a tremendous factor in my healing journey. Staying positive and joyful continues to keep me healthy.

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