Our bodies cannot stay young forever. We get older, we change, we start to wear down some. And with that come chronic conditions, the most common of which is arthritis. The fact of the matter is, over 50 million people have doctor-diagnosed arthritis. Arthritis pain makes life difficult to manage; the pain and swelling reduce how active your lifestyle can be as they impair your everyday activities. So learning how to reduce those symptoms is an important step to living your life after being diagnosed with arthritis.
By changing your lifestyle to include the right kind of exercise, diet, pain management and avoiding injury, you will be able to live a full life that you can enjoy, despite getting older.
The right kind of exercise
Arthritis creates a vicious cycle: As your joint pain gets worse, it becomes harder to be active, and as you become less active you put on weight, which in turn puts more pressure on your joints and makes them hurt more. But, with the right exercises, you can lose the weight while keeping pressure off your joints.
“We understand that many of our residents suffer from the pain of arthritis. However, we also recognize the importance of treating symptoms to prevent arthritis from progressing. At Copper Ridge Health Care, our physical therapists offer daily exercise to promote flexibility and alleviate joint pain,” said Mark Hymas, executive director.
Running is hard on your knees, So for a good cardio workout, try ellipticals which have a significantly smaller impact on your joints. If you have access to a pool, swimming and water aerobics are highly effective workouts that are a low-stress option while still letting you shave off the pounds. Lastly yoga, when poses are modified for minimal joint stress, has been shown to increase flexibility and strength while applying less strain to the body.
These kinds of activities can help reduce stiffness in your body by keeping you active and can burn those few extra pounds.
The correct diet
Because weight is such a factor in your joint health, exercise will not be enough. A proper diet is needed to take a load off the cartilage in your joints. But even beyond that, there are a few nutrients and fatty acids that will help keep your arthritis pain down.
The first thing your body needs is Omega-3 fatty acids. These fatty acids are exactly the nutrients you need to keep the cartilage in your joints healthy and strong. While it’s possible to get omega-3 from fish, it may be preferable to take fish oil supplements if you don’t want a trout every day. Another fatty acid with similar properties, gamma-linolenic acid or GLA, is found in seeds of plants like primrose, borage and black currants, but can be found in their own oil supplements as well.
The NIH has done an in-depth analysis of other foods and their potential benefit to arthritis pain, but like any treatment, you should talk to your doctor before taking any supplements or using any spices or herbal treatments for your joint pain.
Joint pain management
After you have changed your diet and added exercise to your daily life, you will still have pain to manage, but there are more ways to help reduce the symptoms of arthritis.
Heat and cold therapy, easily done in your own home, can help reduce those symptoms in different ways. Hot baths or showers, especially in the morning, can help reduce joint stiffness and help you keep active throughout the day. Cold packs and iced vegetable bags wrapped in a towel can help keep down swelling, and are great ways of achieving quick pain relief in trouble spots.
Another treatment that has proven effective is massage therapy. A proper massage can relieve pain and stiffness, and improve flexibility. If you have even a little bit of apprehension about using massage therapy for your arthritis treatment, consult your primary physician first, and while getting a massage it is important to talk to the therapist and let them know where you are having problems, what pain you are feeling while being massaged, and keep in mind that they are more than willing to change a massage to fit your needs.
Making your home safe for you
The last thing you need to handle your arthritis is to make sure you don’t injure yourself and make it worse! As your arthritis advances, you will become stiffer and have more difficulties moving around. With this comes a greater risk of falling and damaging your joints and bones further. It only takes a few quick steps to make your home safer to fit your needs.
Cleaning your home of clutter can help prevent accidents, and reducing the number of times you have to use any stairs can reduce the number of times you are in danger of falling. Grab bars in your bathroom can help you keep your balance in the slipperiest place in your home, and keep you from damaging your already weakened joints.
We all grow older, and many of us have been or will be diagnosed with arthritis, but that doesn’t mean we have to give up. We can still live a healthy, active lifestyle if we take the right steps to manage arthritis pain and take care of our weakened joints. Low-impact activity, good fatty acids and calcium, treating our joints right, and reducing the possibility of future joint damage are all great ways to prevent arthritis from dictating our lifestyle. A few small steps can keep us independent and happy. We won’t have to miss birthdays, family get-togethers and holiday parties if we only make the right choices when it comes to dealing with our arthritis. It doesn’t have to be the end of our lives.
This article was previously published by the Herald Extra and republished here with permission.