Navigating Life with Arthritis
Grace Weatherby
/ Categories: WELLNESS, 2024

Navigating Life with Arthritis

The #1 cause of disability in the United States, arthritis is a term familiar to most people. What many are not aware of is that arthritis is not just one disease but rather an umbrella term that encompasses over 100 different types of joint diseases. The most common types are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, but there are many others, including psoriatic arthritis, gout, and lupus-related arthritis. Collectively, arthritis affects nearly 60 million men, women and children in the U.S.

Living with arthritis means dealing with a range of symptoms that can vary from day to day. Some days, you might wake up feeling like you can conquer the world, while others, even the simplest tasks—like buttoning your shirt—can feel impossible.

Common, and often constant, symptoms of arthritis include pain, stiffness, swelling, redness and decreased range of motion of the joints. The most common joints affected by arthritis are the knees, hands, hips, neck, feet, and lower back.

While living with arthritis can be challenging, it doesn’t have to be life-limiting. There are strategies you can use to manage and reduce symptoms so you can stay active and engaged in the activities that are important to you.

Here’s where to start:

Keep moving:

As counterintuitive as it may sound, staying active works to relieve arthritis pain. 

Regular physical activity can reduce pain, increase function, improve sleep and mood, and contribute to weight control, which further relieves pressure on already tender joints.

Adults with arthritis should aim for at least 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity activity. Low-impact activities that do not put stress on the joints include brisk walking, cycling, swimming, water aerobics, light gardening, group exercise classes, tai chi, dancing and muscle-strengthening exercises including weight training and working with resistance bands. 

 

Adapt and Overcome:

Living with arthritis often means adjusting your daily routine and lifestyle. It might mean pacing yourself, learning to delegate tasks, or finding new ways to do things you love.

Adaptive tools and techniques can be game changers for managing arthritis symptoms. Whether it's ergonomic utensils in the kitchen, supportive braces for your joints, or simply new strategies for putting on shoes or clothing, there are plenty of ways to navigate life more comfortably.

 

Eat Smart:  

Research shows that a Mediterranean-style diet can help fight inflammation and improve joint pain and other symptoms. If you’re diet doesn’t already include these foods, consider adding them:

- Fish

- Nuts & seeds

- Olive oil

- Beans

- Whole grains

- Turmeric

- Fruits & vegetables, especially blueberries, cherries, spinach, kale, and broccoli 

 

Medicate as Needed:

Over-the-counter pain medications, like acetaminophen and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs, such as Advil or Motrin), can provide short-term relief from symptoms of arthritis. However, it’s important to discuss your options with your doctor, especially if you’re taking other drugs for arthritis or other conditions.

If you’ve tried these strategies and are still struggling to engage in daily living and activities, talk to your doctor about other treatment options.

Did you know?
Contrary to the common misconception, arthritis is not just an ‘old person’s disease. About two-thirds of the 60 million Americans living with arthritis are aged 65 and under.
SOURCE: Arthritis Foundation

 

 

Jennifer LaChance, PA-C, is an orthopedic associate at SVMC Orthopedics in Bennington, VT and Northern Berkshire Orthopedics in Williamstown, MA.

 

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