Living With Arthritis
What Can I Do to Feel Better?
Arthritis can affect every aspect of your life. In its early stages, many ignore their joint discomfort. But as arthritis becomes more advanced, even daily activities like walking, driving or standing can become difficult and painful. It is important to be proactive by taking steps to manage your condition.
See Your Doctor
Talk to your primary care physician who can refer you to a doctor who specializes in treating disorders of the bones and joints, usually an orthopaedic specialist, who will determine whether it is arthritis or another condition.
The doctor will examine you and will order X-rays of your bones and joints to determine if you have arthritis, what type is affecting you and the severity of your condition. Your physician will then guide you through the best available treatment options for your specific condition.
There are a variety of surgical and non-surgical options that your physician may review with you.
Start an Exercise Program
Moderate activities such as walking and swimming are great ways to keep your bones strong and your joints flexible. Exercise is an important part of arthritis treatment. Moderate exercise will not wear out your joints, but always consult your physician before starting any exercise program.
Joint swelling and pain caused by arthritis can make muscles weak. Weak muscles can in turn increase the instability of your joints and increase your pain and disability from osteoarthritis. When necessary, a physical therapist or your physician can develop a program to strengthen your muscles. Strong muscles can help protect you from injury by absorbing shock and supporting your joints.
Flexibility of joints can be improved by a regular stretching program. Flexibility allows for comfortable movement during exercise and other daily activities. Proper motion of your joints helps your cartilage stay healthy. If appropriate, your physician or physical therapist can develop a stretching program that can be done on a daily basis.
Many people find that aquatic therapy is an excellent form of exercise for managing arthritis and pain. Water resists movement which allows for strengthening of your muscles. Aquatic therapy is also a great option because the water’s buoyancy allows you to move with minimal impact to your joints. Consult your physician about starting aquatic therapy classes.
Endurance is also an important aspect of exercise for people with arthritis. Walking is an excellent way to get this form of workout. Make sure to ask your physician for any recommendations or guidelines before beginning any walking routine.
Non-Surgical Treatment Options
Hot and Cold Treatments
Both hot and cold treatments can help reduce pain from arthritis and help to increase flexibility. To reduce joint pain and swelling, use a cold compress to decrease blood flow. Heat will increase blood flow and help muscles to relax.
There are several over-the-counter medications that can help relieve joint swelling and pain. These include acetaminophen (under the brand name Tylenol®), non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) (under the brand names Motrin®, Advil® and Aleve®) and topical creams with capsaicin (an ingredient from the red pepper).
Injections of cortisone or hyaluronate can be prescribed to reduce swelling and pain in joints.
Self-Help Tools and Devices
Joint pain can restrict your ability to accomplish everyday tasks. The following is a list of tools and devices that can help:
• Orthotics to improve foot alignment
• Braces for knee support
• Jar openers
• Button threaders
• Large grips for pencils, garden tools or other hand-held objects
• Abdominal supports to reduce stress on the back
• Long-handled reachers or grabbers to help you pick things up without bending
• Sock sliders to help you put on socks/shoe horns to help you put on shoes
• Canes, walkers or crutches limit stress on joints
Is there such a thing as an “arthritis diet?” Can eating well alleviate joint inflammation and pain?
Yes, scientific research has shown that following a diet low in processed foods and saturated fats and high in vegetables, fruits, nuts and beans is great for your body – and can curb joint inflammation and pain. Another bonus: Eating healthy, whole foods commonly found in Mediterranean cuisine – and fewer packaged foods – can also lead to weight loss, which makes a huge difference in managing joint pain.
Many reliable Internet sources provide extensive information about nutrition and arthritis. One excellent resource is the Arthritis Foundation’s website under the heading: Eating Well
Vitamins and Supplements
There are a variety of supplements that are sometimes recommended for arthritis, including vitamin C, vitamin D, glucosamine and chondrotin sulfate. These supplements might or might not help relieve arthritis symptoms. As always, consult your physician to determine if these should be taken.
To read more about how to manage your arthritis, please consult one of the Internet-based resources below.