By: Michele, RN, OCN, Amber Pharmacy Clinical Nurse
Though you may already know that arthritis is a common condition, it may surprise you to know that arthritis impacts more than 50 million Americans, making it the number one cause of disability in the country, according to the Arthritis Foundation.
Arthritis symptoms may come and go and can be mild, moderate or severe. Whether you’re newly diagnosed with arthritis or have been coping with the condition for years, here are a few tips to help you manage the pain of arthritis.
Maintaining a healthy weight is good for your general health and wellness and it also can improve your arthritis. If you are overweight, losing the extra pounds and having less pressure on your joints can help reduce the pain that comes with arthritis. Losing weight is no easy endeavor but the weight management and healthy eating tips suggested by the Arthritis Foundation, the American Heart Association or the American Cancer Society are a good place to start. Always talk with your healthcare provider before starting a new diet plan so that they can help you choose the best one.
Even though exercising may be one of the last things you feel like doing, it can help ease the symptoms of arthritis. Strong muscles help protect joints, which is why staying physically active is one of the best ways to keep your joints flexible and help ease stiffness. Not only will exercise help strengthen your muscles but it will help you with weight management, improve your sleep and boost your mood. Even though exercise helps with arthritis, it’s key to not to over-do it. You should know your body’s limits and always listen to the signals your body is sending you. Be sure to speak with your healthcare provider before starting an exercise program to find out what activities are safe for you. If you feel moderate to severe pain while exercising, stop right away.
Arthritis exercise tips include:
- Do flexibility exercises to help with balance, avoid falls and prevent injury.
- Good examples of low-impact exercises include water aerobics, walking and stationary biking.
- Slow flowing movements like yoga and tai chi can help improve strength and improve stiffness.
- Try hand stretches to help with finger and hand pain.
Good Sleeping Habits
Arthritis pain can make sleeping difficult at times, which can be frustrating because getting enough sleep when you have arthritis can help reduce pain. Most people need seven to nine hours of sleep each night. This time is essential to help your body reset and heal itself.
Tips for healthy sleeping habits include:
- Try going to bed at the same time each night and getting up at the same time each day to reinforce a routine.
- Do something that will signal your body it’s time to go to sleep each night—like taking a warm bath or reading a book.
- Sleep on a supportive mattress and pillow.
- Don’t exercise too close to bedtime.
- Turn off your cell phone and television at least one hour before bed. If you are unable to fall asleep, get out of bed and try a quiet activity like reading until you are tired.
- Do not drink alcohol or caffeine late in the day.
- Talk to your doctor to see if you need a change in medication.
Take a Warm Bath or Shower
Take some pressure off your joints and give yourself time to relax by taking a warm bath or shower. Not only does being in water take pressure off your inflamed joints but the warmth can increase circulation and help with pain and stiffness. You can also try doing some gentle stretching while in the tub or shower to relax your muscles.
Seek Support from Others
The physical pain associated with arthritis can have a direct impact on your emotional health. If you feel anxious or depressed, it’s important to remember that you are not alone. To connect with others who are going through the same struggle, you can join a support group either in-person or online. Not only will this give you emotional support but you can also learn tips to manage your symptoms from others with arthritis.
Take Your Medication as Directed by Your Doctor
To prevent flares and help manage symptoms, it’s important to take your medication as prescribed, even when you’re feeling well. If you’re not taking your medication because of side effects, tell your healthcare provider or pharmacist.
If you find yourself forgetting your medication, try these tips to help you remember:
- Create a calendar of when you take your medicine and leave it in a spot where you will see it every day.
- Set reminders on a cell phone or watch.
- Download a mobile app that helps with medication management. Many medication manufacturers have support and reminder programs as well.
- Make taking your medication part of your daily routine, like brushing your teeth.
- Organize your pills with a weekly pill organizer.
There are many lifestyle changes you can make to help manage your arthritis. The list above includes only a few. It’s important to remember that everybody is unique and some remedies will work better than others. You can also learn more about managing arthritis from the Arthritis Foundation.
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