If you've recently been diagnosed with arthritis, the first question you might ask is if you can live a comfortable life with the condition? In most cases, yes! And there are ways to ease arthritis pain—in some cases even make it go away completely. Here are seven tips for living with arthritis.
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1. Consider your weight
If you are overweight, you can make your arthritis worse by putting more strain on your joints. Hence, if overweight, consider losing a couple of pounds.
If you struggle, consider getting an app like Noom that helps you eat well without thinking about it.
2. Exercise right
Keeping active is essential. Not only will it help your overall health and state of mind, but it can also remove pressure on various joints.
Depending on what kind of arthritis you suffer from, you need a specific workout regime that works for you. Have a consultation with a physical therapist. Chances are they will recommend various exercises that strengthen specific muscles, which in turn help support your joints.
Remember—working out does not have to be complicated. You can do yoga at home using YouTube videos, dance around the living room, or go for a brisk walk around the neighbourhood. You can also spread it out—ten minutes three times a day adds up to half an hour!
We spoke to Katie Gosling, Lead Physiotherapist at First Line Physio, who told Health Times: "Something that has been researched lately is the idea of 'exercise snacking' for arthritis, where you complete each exercise for 1 minute, with a 1-minute rest after each exercise, for 10 minutes. This can be really beneficial, as people with arthritis can sometimes find it hard to fit regular physiotherapy into their day, and the short duration of exercise minimises the risk of a flare-up.
Speak to your physiotherapist about the best 5 exercises for you, as everyone is different and you want something that is tailored to your needs. Within the 1 minute of exercise, you are aiming to do as many as you can without causing yourself too much pain. You can keep a record of this and see if you can improve your repetitions over time!
"One example of this for knee arthritis: Sit to stand - rest - Knee extension in sitting - rest - Standing/Chair marching - rest - Calf raises - rest - mini squats"
3. Move about
If you sit still for long periods, chances are you'll get stiff. This will worsen your arthritis. If you have a desk job, try to get up and stretch every fifteen minutes. Even if you don't have arthritis, this is a good idea. During your lunch break, go for a ten to twenty-minute walk. This will help you get some mild exercise in, and you'll catch some much needed sunlight.
Likewise, if sitting a movie at home, change position or stretch every fifteen minutes. You can easily remember to do this by setting the alarm on your phone.
4. Anti-inflammatory herbs
Arthritis is an inflammation. That's why doctors often describe anti-inflammatories. Some natural herbs and spices can help curb and sometimes cure, inflammation. These include:
- Turmeric (curcumin is the active ingredient)
- Chilli (capsaicin is the active ingredient—you can find it in several salves and creams, which can be applied directly on the skin)
- Black Pepper
- Green tea
- Frankincense (particularly when combined with curcumin)
- Maritime Pine Bark
- White Willow
- Cat's Claw
Want a tip for getting some of these spices in one delicious go? Make a chai tea. Blend either green, red (rooibos) or black tea with cinnamon, ginger, black pepper, cloves, chilli, turmeric and cardamom. Serve with a dash of honey, which is also known for its anti-bacterial properties.
Many of the different herbs and spices are available as supplements. You can also buy the herbs and spices and make your own capsules.
Before you start using these herbs and spices, speak with your doctor and a herbalist. Firstly, they can ensure none of the herbs and spices will interfere with your medication or another condition of yours. Secondly, they can ensure you get the right dosage. Note that a pill here, or a cup of tea there, won’t bring the desired results.
Other herbs, such as thyme, has also shown some promise when it comes to reducing inflammation. Garden herbs in general (parsley, sage, rosemary, oregano, and thyme), may have medicinal properties, too. You can blend them with a large handful of mint and add some honey for another delightful tea.
You can find more ideas for anti-inflammatory teas here.
5. Try an anti-inflammatory diet
Eating a whole foods diet free from refined flour and sugar, processed meats, and preservatives have worked wonders for many people with arthritis. Eating fresh fruits and vegetables, wholemeal grains, fatty fish, nuts and olive oil is recommended. Red wine is also permitted in moderation. Including omega-3 oil derived from fish is also highly recommended.
6. Make life easier
Instead of trying to open a can and hurting your fingers, buy a wall-mounted can opener. If your legs hurt when in the shower, or you fear slipping, get a bathmat and a shower stool. Various adaptive aids are available for people living with arthritis.
Likewise, if jars are hard to open, get a jar opener, or at the very least, use a cloth and tilt the jar so that you can apply pressure with your whole arm, as opposed to just your fingers. This goes for anything you do—adjust it so it works for you.
Whatever is causing you difficulties, find ways around it. If it's hard to bend down to get something, reorganise your shelves. Put things in places where they're easy to reach. If ironing is a problem, buy clothes that don't need ironing, or use a laundry service if you can afford it. If it's hard to stand up and cook, sit down to cook.
7. Get enough sleep
Just as a healthy diet and exercise have been linked to reduced inflammation, so has sleeping well. The bottom line: go to bed on regular hours and get enough sleep every night.
If sleep is an issue for you, create healthy sleep habits to improve your chances of sleeping well.
Living with arthritis
Here’s a summary of what you can do to reduce arthritis pain and improve your life:
- Eating a healthy anti-inflammatory diet
- Taking anti-inflammatory supplements
- Exercising in accordance with what your physical therapist recommends
- Getting adaptive aids so as not to put a strain on your joints (such as long-handled tools to pick things up from the floor—Google what adaptive aids others are using for ideas, or speak with a healthcare professional)
- Moving about every fifteen minutes when sitting still
- Organising your life so that you don't have to lift something heavy, bend down to get something, etc. if it causes pain
- Losing weight if you are overweight
- Getting enough sleep on regular hours
Lastly, remember that you are not alone. You can find online and offline support groups. Staying active, seeing friends and practising mindfulness can also help you cope with the mental aspects of having being diagnosed with arthritis.