You used to jump at the chance to go for a walk with a friend and play a game with your kids, but arthritis has made moving around more difficult — and painful. If you’re tired of living in a world that’s shrinking because of arthritis, we hear you loud and clear.
May is Arthritis Awareness Month in the United States, so the team here at Western Orthopaedics thought we’d take this opportunity to pull together a few simple tips that you can begin to implement today.
Our goal here is to move beyond broad recommendations like, “Lose weight” and “Exercise more” to more actionable items.
First, a word about arthritis
There are more than 100 different types of arthritis, but they all boil down to two things — joint pain and inflammation.
As of now, about 58.5 million adults in the US have doctor-diagnosed arthritis, but this number is expected to rise to nearly 78.5 million by 2040.
Unfortunately, there’s no cure for arthritis, in all its many forms, but there are ways you can continue to lead a healthy and active life despite the joint issues.
The tips we present below are designed for most types of arthritis, especially the most common form, osteoarthritis.
Key tips for living with arthritis
As we promised, we’re not going to tell you to lose weight and exercise more, though those are two important keys to managing arthritis. They’re also far easier said than done, which is why we want to focus on actionable items you can implement today, including:
1. Find non-concussive activities
When you have arthritis, “Pounding the pavement,” is the last thing you should be doing. We suggest that you ditch activities on hard surfaces in favor of gentler activities for your joints. Think swimming instead of running, cycling instead of aerobics class, and golf instead of tennis.
2. Practice yoga
One of the best activities for arthritis is yoga, which focuses on strength, balance, and flexibility — the ultimate trifecta for healthy joints. Getting into a yoga practice is incredibly easy these days. You can find a local yoga studio, an on-line class, or sign up for a yoga app.
3. Reduce stress
There is absolutely no good that comes from chronic stress, and researchers are continually unearthing new ways that stress negatively impacts the body. In particular, living in an ongoing state of stress can lead to system-wide inflammation, which greatly exacerbates diseases like arthritis.
To relieve stress, we suggest deep breathing exercises, like the yoga we mentioned above, meditation, reading, listening to music, or going for a walk in nature.
4. Try hot and cold therapies
If you’re having a bad day with arthritis, a great way to reduce the discomfort is through icing or heating. Applying an ice pack to a swollen joint can reduce the inflammation quickly. You can use heat to soothe and relax the stiff, tense muscles surrounding your arthritic joint.
5. Know your limits
While we encourage you to move around, it’s important to know your limits. For example, if your knees are complaining, avoid using the stairs and use support when you’re standing up or sitting down.
Gritting your teeth and soldiering through arthritis pain isn’t going to win you any medals and will only leave you worse off. So, push yourself if the discomfort is only minor or you’re experiencing stiffness, but take a break when true pain sets in.
6. Don’t go it alone
Enlisting the help of joint experts early on in your arthritis can not only save you from serious discomfort, it can also help you avoid or delay more aggressive solutions like joint replacement surgery. For example, at our practice, we help our patients manage arthritis through joint injections and physical therapy, which work together to help them move strongly and without pain.
For a more tailored plan for your arthritis, we invite you to contact one of our offices in Arvada or Denver, Colorado, to schedule an appointment with one of our joint specialists.