Do you or someone you know have arthritis? You wouldn't be alone: More than 4.6 million Canadian adults - that's 1 in 6 people - report having the condition, according to the Arthritis Society.
September is Arthritis Awareness Month, making it a great time to learn more about the best ways to manage the pain that can accompany this inflammation of the joints.
Here are some tips for living well with arthritis:
When you have arthritis, even completing simple tasks can be very painful. There are small adjustments you can make to your daily habits that can help you minimize pain.
One area to look at is how your home is set up. Arthritis Research Canada has a comprehensive guide chock-full of ideas for reducing pain in your daily life, including at home, around town and during travel.
In the home, try following these tips to reduce discomfort:
- Keep your most-used items at waist-height or within easy reach.
- Stand on a gel mat or sit on a stool while washing dishes or doing other tasks where you have to stand for long periods of time.
- Use kitchen appliances with thick, ergonomically designed handles.
- Transfer laundry detergent into smaller, lighter bottles.
Nearly every household task can be modified to put less strain on your joints.
Another area of daily living that is important to examine is how you expend your energy, and how often. Having to work a full eight-hour day, run errands and then make dinner can be incredibly demanding on joints and cause pain to surge. Instead, it helps to be strategic with how you allocate your energy.
The Arthritis Society recommends listing all the activities you do in a typical week, including those that relate to work, home and play. Then, for each category, rank the activities in order of their importance to your life. Look at your activities and see if they are spread out over the week, or if they are all clustered into one or two days. You also want to see if you schedule your top-priority activities for when you are feeling the least joint pain, as well as if you schedule rest breaks throughout your week.
By tracking your activities, you might see how they can be rearranged to alternate high-activity days with rest days and avoid overexerting your muscles.
Eating a balanced diet that supports your bone health as well as your immune system is important to living well with arthritis. According to the Arthritis Society, there is no established anti-arthritis diet, however, certain foods may help reduce pain and other symptoms.
Reader's Digest Canada put together a list of foods and spices that may help ease arthritic pain, due to their anti-inflammatory and bone-strengthening properties, including:
- Pomegranate juice.
Following a diet that supports effective nutrient absorption is especially important for those living with arthritis, since many medications for the condition can interfere with nutrient absorption, according to the Arthritis Society. It's well-advised to include foods high in nutrient content such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and dairy products in your diet. A registered dietician can help you develop an eating plan specific to your needs.
Exercising with arthritis may seem counterintuitive, but it can actually help you ease pain and manage your symptoms, according to the Arthritis Society.
"It is through joint movement that cartilage absorbs nutrients."
When you exercise, you're "feeding" your joints, the organization explains, as it is through joint movement that cartilage absorbs nutrients and gets rid of waste. Regular exercise can help your bones become stronger as well as increase your range of motion, improve your balance and your ability to do daily activities. Regular exercise is also good for stress management and essential to living well with arthritis.
The Arthritis Society advises that people with arthritis consult with their healthcare provider before starting any new exercise routine. Your doctor can help determine the best type of routine for you and the strength, flexibility and endurance exercises you should do.
Emotional and mental health
Physical well-being and emotional health are closely linked, and individuals with arthritis should also focus on their mental state and attitudes in addition to their diet and exercise.
When regular activities become painful, it is easy to feel sad, depressed or angry. However, the Arthritis Society notes that these negative feelings can worsen the "cycle of pain." Stress is also linked to increased inflammation in your body and joints. Instead, it is important to look for ways to add happiness and fun to each and every day. One suggestion is doing one hobby or activity a week and one activity a day that bring you joy. And though there are self-management tips that can help you overcome feelings of sadness, if you are experiencing severe depression, talk to your doctor immediately.
Living arthritis with can be challenging, but you should always remember there are professionals, community members and resources ready and able to help you. Having arthritis doesn't mean your life is over, as there are many ways to minimize pain and live well. To learn more about living with arthritis, check out the useful online self-management courses offered by the Arthritis Society here.