The 6 things you're doing that could make arthritis worse

Certain habits could be making arthritis symptoms more painful


If you have arthritis, you know all about the pain, swelling, and stiffness that the disease brings on. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 54 million people in the U.S. suffer from some type of arthritis. It's the leading cause of disability.

"We're seeing arthritis at an earlier age, not only in the knees but shoulders, really everywhere. It's becoming an epidemic of sorts," said Dr. Mathew Pombo, of Emory Orthopedics & Spine Center.

There are lots of medicines to make arthritis symptoms better, but there are also things you do that can make it worse.

Staying still is the first mistake that can intensify your pain. Regular physical activity makes your joints more flexible.

But too much exercise can also be a bad thing.

"We also have a lot of younger people participating in sports, and we know that prior injury leads to post-traumatic arthritis," Pombo said.

Try swimming, biking or walking for about 30 minutes a day.

Ignoring your dental health may also lead to worse problems. One study found the bacterium that causes periodontal disease increases the severity of rheumatoid arthritis.

The wrong foods can also cause inflammation in the body and trigger symptoms. Some ingredients to avoid: sugar, saturated fats, refined carbs, Omega-6 fatty acids, MSG, gluten, aspartame and alcohol.

Stress could make your symptoms worse. A traumatic or stressful situation can actually trigger the development of certain types of arthritis.

Yoga, meditation, and getting enough sleep can help you manage your stress levels. 

Smoking is another bad move. Recent research shows both current and past smokers with arthritis had worse symptoms and more joint damage than those who never smoked.