Living With Arthritis

by Mary V.
(Ohio)

Arthritis can be painful and limiting. Many people have experienced it in one form or another. There are several treatments including medications, exercise, diet, and lifestyle changes. Even sleeping habits and mood changes can affect arthritis. There is no direct correlation between how severe your arthritis is and how much pain you feel. So how do people deal with this disease?

There are several ways to lessen how much pain you have when your arthritis acts up. Some are preventative. One way is to lose weight. Extra pounds add stress to your joints. Eat a healthy diet. Not only will that help you keep those extra pounds off, but there are certain vitamins that specifically help arthritis. Vitamin C repairs tissue, vitamin D absorbs calcium, builds bone mass, and prevents bone loss, and calcium strengthens your bones. Moderate exercising strengthens your joints and increases flexibility and stability. Those with rheumatoid arthritis need to refrain from exercising during flare ups. You should only exercise to the point where you feel mild discomfort. You should not feel pain. Get plenty of sleep. Patients with arthritis should get 8 to 10 hours of sleep.

When your arthritis does flare up there are different treatments to help with the pain and inflammation. One common treatment is use of medication. Certain types of medications can have serious side effects, so you need to weigh the pros and cons with your doctor. Ice packs can help with swelling and inflammation, but people with circulatory problems should avoid this. You can also use a heating pad or take a hot bath or shower. Patients with arthritis may sometimes use splints, braces, canes, or walkers for stability.

There are adjustments you can make in your home to ease your arthritis too. A “grabber” can help you get a can out of the cupboard or pick up laundry off the floor. Replace faucet handles that twist and round door knobs with levered handles. Don’t overdo it. Tiring yourself out can especially provoke flare ups for people with rheumatoid arthritis. Take breaks and don’t feel like you have to do everything in one day.

If you are in a situation where you don’t move around a lot, it could affect your arthritis also. Sitting at a computer desk for 8 hours a day can stiffen you up. Be sure to take a break to move around and do stretches. If available, use a trackball instead of a mouse and a split keyboard. If you have the right software you can use “macros” to store frequently used words and phrases. This will save on your typing. Again, take it easy. You don’t want your arthritis to flare up from overextending yourself.

There are many things you can do to prevent or lessen an arthritis flare up. It is important to do your part. It is equally as important to check back with your doctor for advice as well. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and check with your local Arthritis Foundation to see what resources are available to you.

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