The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that more than 50 million Americans suffer from arthritis, which makes it the leading cause of disability in the United States. Arthritis and joint pain can make simple day-to-day tasks and physical activities painful or impossible for patients, and treatment and medication options cannot always eliminate the pain completely.

According to the Arthritis Foundation, a study of 130,880 people from the Canadian Community Health Survey found that people with arthritis experienced twice the rate of depression and suicidal thoughts than those without the disease. Research also shows that those who reported chronic pain, limitations in daily activities and multiple health problems were more likely to be depressed.

Two of the most common types of arthritis are rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammatory disorder that most typically attacks the smaller joints, like your fingers or your feet, according to The Mayo Clinic. RA is an autoimmune disorder that causes your body’s immune system to mistakenly attack your own body’s tissue in its joints. RA most commonly is found in people over the age of 40. Osteoarthritis is commonly described as the wear and tear on joints from activity over a longer period of time.

Like many other diseases, preventative care and early diagnosis can be crucial for arthritis and overall joint health. Here are a few do’s and don’ts that everyone can benefit from.

DO: Seek professional diagnosis. If you or a loved one is suffering from arthritis, it’s important to diagnose it correctly. RA is often more complex, requiring close medical care and medication treatments.

“There are many types of arthritis, allegedly 100,” says Dr. J. Lawrence Houk, clinical director of the Division of Allergy, Immunology and Arthritis for University of Cincinnati Health. “Osteoarthritis is the most common and is the major source of disability among elderly persons. There is little that can be done preventatively, with the exception of weight loss, never a very popular subject with the patient.”

“The ‘crippling’ arthritis is rheumatoid arthritis. It is a common disorder with a prevalence rate of about 1 percent,” Dr. Houk adds. “The most common sex and age of onset is women in their 20s and 30s and 40s.” 

DO NOT: Abuse or overuse medications. Over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen, acetaminophen and naproxen can ease pain and inflammation and are commonly used to treat arthritis and joint pain. Overuse of these medications, however, can lead to stomach bleeding and internal organ damage. Physicians recommend limiting daily doses to fewer than 3,000 milligrams when using.

Prescription and opioid pain medications can become addictive and habit forming, so their use is not recommended for long-term treatment. They are best served for short-term and flare-ups only.

DO: Consider exploring alternative treatments. Some doctors recommend topical treatments, such as the prescription drug diclofenac gel. Other treatments include injections such as steroid shots, which can provide short-term relief, but only if all other methods have not been successful. These medications can give relief, but they do not change the outcome.

Use heating pads, ice or a hot bath during flare-ups as well. These methods have been known to relieve pain and inflammation. Acupuncture and massage therapy have also been known to help those suffering. According to Consumer Reports, a review of 29 trials including approximately 18,000 patients, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine in 2012, suggested that acupuncture helped some of the patients.

DO NOT: Smoke and abuse alcohol. This advice should be heeded by all, but abusing these can be especially problematic for those suffering from arthritis.

“The only preventative measure for RA is stopping smoking,” said Dr. Houk.

“Very clear studies indicate that tobacco is highly associated [with] and probably causal in rheumatoid arthritis and is causal in the worst form of the disease,” says Dr. Susan Goodman, assistant attending rheumatologist and internist at the Hospital for Special Surgery and assistant professor of medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College.

Alcohol has not been proven to cause or worsen RA symptoms, but it can make problems associated with organ damage from medications more likely. Many of the medications are metabolized by the liver, so heavy alcohol use can make you more susceptible to liver damage.

DO: Exercise gently. Regular, low-impact exercise, such as walking and swimming, can ease the pain of arthritis and strengthen the muscles around the joints. Experts recommend elliptical machines, exercise bikes, tai chi, water workouts or yoga for low-impact workouts.

DO NOT: Seek out supplements that make outlandish claims. Many patients are persuaded by advertisements and sales pitches of supplements such as glucosamine and chondroitin, which claim they will relieve their pain and symptoms. The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons cites studies that fail to show any benefits of arthritis patients taking these.

DO: Pay attention to diet and nutrition. Experts agree that it can be beneficial to seek out foods high in omega-3 fatty acids as opposed to omega-6 fatty acids.

Obese and overweight people are much more likely to suffer from arthritis—the less weight on your joints and tendons, the better.

These tips are just a general guideline to give you a better understanding of the types of joint pain and what may be causing it. If you or a loved one is experiencing pain, you should consult your physician.