Tips for Coping with Arthritis
Arthritis, or inflammation of a joint, is one of the most common ailments in older adults. There are over 100 types of arthritis, some of which can lead to crippling and deformity. Do you or someone you care for have a form of arthritis? If so, it is important to find out which type of arthritis you or your care recipient have. The pain, stiffness, fatigue, and sometimes, disabling symptoms can be challenging to live with; however, there are many things you can do to help cope with any type of arthritic condition.
See your Doctor. There is no cure for most types of arthritis. Early diagnosis, especially of the inflammatory types, will lead to the most appropriate therapy and a reduction in disability.
Medication: Over-the-counter and prescription medications may help to control the symptoms. Disease modifying medications are available by prescription for certain types of arthritis.
Be Active: The proper type and amount of exercise decreases pain and improves function. Exercise helps to reduce fatigue, and increases range of motion. 30 minutes of moderate physical activity, even in 10-minute intervals, done 3 times a week can make a difference. See your doctor before beginning an exercise program. A Physical Therapist can prescribe an appropriate exercise program for your physical ability and the type of arthritis you have.
Maintain a Healthy Weight: The possibility of developing arthritis increases with increasing weight. A healthy weight means less pressure on the knees, which in turn, reduces the risk of knee osteoarthritis.
Joint Protection: Take measures to protect your joints from sports injuries or repetitive motion injuries. Repeated knee bending, or repeated shoulder motion causes "wear and tear" on the joints. Occupational therapists can help you learn how to perform daily tasks more easily, resulting in less joint stress and less fatigue.
Rest: A balance between exercise and rest is important. The proper amount of rest will allow you to conserve energy and heal.
Self-Help Devices: There are many aids or "gadgets" on the market that make it easier to maintain your independence. There are devices available to help in cooking, cleaning, grooming, bathing, dressing, doing laundry, and other tasks. For example: use a small hand-held battery operated can opener instead of a manual one, or even a larger electric one. A small, rubberized mat will do wonders in opening jars, pressure cooker lids, doorknobs, turning keys, and more.
Thermal modalities: Heat and cold applied appropriately will give short-term relief from pain. Popcorn kernels, double bagged and kept in the freezer make a moldable, reusable, cold pack. Whether using heat or cold, always use something between the hot or cold pack and your skin to prevent skin or tissue damage. Check with your health care provider regarding modalities and time length application for your type of arthritis.
Education: Continue to learn about your type of arthritis, and techniques to manage pain on a day-to-day basis. Learn what your limitations are and maintain a balance of doing as much as you are able without overextending yourself.
Appropriate self-management of arthritis will allow you and/or your care recipient to improve function, stay as independent and productive as possible, and lower health care costs.