Managing Arthritis Pain
Did you know that roughly 70 million Americans may have arthritis in one form or another and that you may be one of them? Many people think there’s nothing that can be done about it, except for pain management. But the great news is that you can act right now to lessen the incidence of rheumatoid arthritis or to reduce the pain and discomfort that typically accompanies this disease.
Here are ten simple steps that can improve your health, emotional outlook, pain level, and generally make it easier to cope with arthritis.
How to Manage Arthritis
Follow these 10 tips to help manage arthritis for maximum pain relief:
1. Pay attention to symptoms and see your doctor.
If you have pain, stiffness, or swelling in or around a joint for more than two weeks, it’s time to see your doctor. Only a doctor can tell if it’s arthritis. Write down observations and symptoms as they occur. Bring your list to your appointment.
2. Get an accurate diagnosis.
“You have arthritis” is not a diagnosis. Ask for a specific diagnosis of the type of arthritis you have. There are more than 100 types, and each one has different treatment options. Getting the right treatment requires getting the right diagnosis.
3. Start prevention and treatment early.
The earlier, the better. Early diagnosis and treatment can often mean less joint damage and less pain. Prevent serious progression of your arthritis.
4. Avoid excess stress on your joints.
Exercise to reduce pain/ fatigue, to increase range of motion, and generally for good overall health. With respect to arthritis, exercise can relieve stress and can help enable you to maintain your daily activities. Use simple stretching techniques to keep your joints and muscles flexible. Exercising in the water can build strength and increase range of motion while the water’s buoyancy reduces wear and tear on sore joints. Use assistive devices to make tasks easier. Be sure not to overdo it though.
5. Maintain a healthy weight.
Keep your weight at the recommended amount for your age and body type. Every extra pound means added stress to your knees and hips. Excess weight can mean having more pain, contribute to and aggravate osteoarthritis, and increase your risk of gout too. Follow a healthy diet regimen. Research has shown the importance of antioxidants in reducing the risk of osteoarthritis and its progression.
6. Take your medication just as your doctor prescribes.
If you’re tempted to stop taking your arthritis medication because you feel it is not working or you believe you are experiencing undesirable side effects, call your doctor first before stopping. It can take weeks, or even months, for the full benefits of a medication to become apparent, and some side effects do ease over time. Further, with some arthritis medications you must wean yourself off of them slowly over time. Stopping a medication abruptly may not only cause you to miss out on its benefits, it can be downright dangerous. Likewise, be sure your doctor knows all the medications you are taking, both prescription and over the counter as some can contribute to arthritis.
7. Protect yourself when you go out into the sun.
Some forms of arthritis, as well as certain medications, can leave you more vulnerable to the sun’s harmful rays. Be sure to limit sun exposure so as to not overdo it and be aware of how much sun you can expose your skin to without getting sunburned while worsening your arthritis.
8. Continue learning about arthritis.
Each week, commit to learning something new about arthritis. Understanding your disease is an important step in managing it. There are also arthritis support groups and online forums that can be very helpful for learning and also for finding comfort through other people in similar situations as you.
9. Learn to relax.
Pain can cause both physical and emotional stress. Pain and stress have similar effects on the body – specifically, both pain and stress can cause increased heart rate and blood pressure; fast, shallow breathing; and muscle cramps. Relaxation can help you reverse these effects, give you a sense of wellbeing, and make it easier to manage your pain.
10. Consider making dietary and nutritional changes.
If your current medication is not working as well as you would like, or if it is causing undesirable side effects, ask your doctor about other treatment options in the form of nutritional supplements or natural foods you can add to your diet that assist with relieving pain and inflammation. There are many foods that are seemingly healthy but cause severe inflammation and wreak havoc to your arthritis. A great resource on inflammatory foods is The Virgin Diet.
Of course, there are many other ways to lessen the pain and discomfort of arthritis, but these ten tips are an excellent place to start in managing your arthritis. Most importantly, while arthritis may limit some of the things you can do, it doesn’t have to control your life. Build your life around wellness, and think of pain as a signal to take positive action to help you manage your condition.