Living with arthritis can be challenging, but there are things you can do to help reduce your pain.
Pain and stiffness can make it difficult to move around, and the limited range of motion can prevent you from engaging in your usual activities. However, there are some things you can do to help reduce your pain so you get more enjoyment from life.
- Be physically active. Exercising gently in the evening can help you feel less stiff in the morning, and doing some gentle exercises in the morning can help prepare your body to start the day. Strength-building exercises that don't damage joints will help build up the muscles that support your joints, and stretching exercises will help improve your range of motion. Low-impact aerobic exercises such as walking, cycling, and swimming are often good choices. Your doctor or a physical therapist will be able to guide you to the activities that will be best for you.
- Achieve and maintain a healthy weight. Excess weight puts additional strain on your joints. For example, being just 4.5 kg (10 lbs.) overweight increases the force on your knees by 13.5 to 27 kg (30 to 60 lbs.) with every step you take.
- Don't smoke. You may be surprised to learn that there is a connection between smoking and arthritis, but it's true. The toxic substances in tobacco that make smoking so dangerous to your lungs, heart, and other organs can cause stress on your connective tissues, which leads to more joint problems.
- Avoid or limit alcohol. Alcohol can interfere with some arthritis medicines, so speak with your doctor or pharmacist before drinking alcohol to make sure that it is safe for you to consume. Alcohol can also affect balance, increasing the risk of falling.
- Pace yourself. Break up daily tasks and leisure activities into smaller segments and take breaks periodically.
- Use assistive devices. Scissors and kitchen tools are available with padded grips that make them easier to hold and use. Special hooks can help you button your clothes when your fingers are stiff. A raised toilet seat and grab bars in the bathroom can make daily hygiene easier. There are levers you can attach to doorknobs to make them easier to turn. Electric staplers and hole-punchers can assist you at work, and pens with wide barrels and soft grips make writing easier. Wheeled carts can help move heavy items without lifting them.
- Stay positive. It's natural for the pain of arthritis to affect your mood, but if you focus on negative feelings, it can actually make the pain harder to manage. Cognitive behavioural therapy—a well-studied combination of talk therapy and behaviour modification—can help break the cycle of self-defeating thoughts and actions. Another technique that has been shown to help is journaling. Writing down your thoughts and feelings can help you release pent-up emotions and frustrations.
- Use heat and cold to reduce pain. A heat wrap or cold wrap applied to joints before and after periods of activity can help ease pain.
- Use medication wisely. Don't give up and decide you just have to live with the pain. Taking a pain reliever to reduce your discomfort will enable you to participate in more of the activities you enjoy. A non-prescription medication such as Advil Arthritis Pain can reduce pain of inflammation, making it easier to live a fuller, happier life.