Arthritis affects people of all ages. More than 54 million people in the U.S. are living with some form of arthritis, and it is the leading cause of work-related disability.
Arthritis refers to a range of conditions that involve pain and inflammation in the joints. These two types of arthritis include osteoarthritis (OA) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
Osteoarthritis mainly results when wear and tear of cartilage causes bones to rub together, leading to friction, damage, and inflammation.
Rheumatoid arthritis is a systemic condition that triggers symptoms throughout the body. It’s an autoimmune disease and happens when the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy joint tissue.
If you or someone you know is suffering from one of the many forms of arthritis, check out these lifestyle tips that may help to ease some common arthritis symptoms, including joint pain, swelling, and stiffness.
Your weight can have a big impact on arthritis symptoms. Extra weight puts more pressure on your joints, especially your knees, hips, and feet. Studies have shown that weight loss is beneficial for relieving stress on joints and ease pain. Losing weight can be a challenge but with a physical therapist assisting you while managing your pain and improving your mobility can make the task less daunting. Often, when patients attend physical therapy regularly and follow their home exercise program they will lose weight, improve physical stamina, and improve their overall quality of life.
Guidelines from the American College of Rheumatology and Arthritis Foundation (ACR/AF) strongly recommend losing weight if you have OA and overweight or obesity.
Reducing the stress on your joints by losing weight can help:
- improve your mobility
- decrease pain
- prevent future damage to your joints
Heat and cold therapy
Heat and cold treatments can help relieve arthritis pain and inflammation.
At times with arthritis, the joints are swollen and inflamed and this is when Cold treatments may help to reduce swelling. Examples include taking ice baths and putting a gel cold pack, ice bag, or a bag of frozen vegetables on the painful area for quick relief. Never apply ice directly to the skin.
Heat treatments may help with circulation, stiff joints, and tired muscles. Consider using heating pads and taking warm/hot baths to improve blood flow and loosen the body up and using an electric blanket or moist heating pad to reduce discomfort overnight.
Exercising on a regular basis is the best medicine for arthritis. Studies show that physical exercise may help reduce arthritis pain and fatigue. Talk with your healthcare provider or physical therapist about the types of exercise that may be best for you. Many people are reluctant to begin an exercise program with arthritis for fear of injuring themselves. Physical therapist can develop a specialized exercise program just for you whether you go to the gym or enjoy exercising in the comfort of your home. Physical therapist will give you the guidance, show you the proper technique and appropriate equipment if need be to perform a safe and healthy program for the long term.
Some good options include low-impact exercises, include:
- tai chi
- water activities
Get rest and improve sleep habits
When your joints feel painful or are swollen or stiff, take some time to rest and conserve your energy. Poor sleep may worsen arthritis-related pain and fatigue. To help improve sleep habits, try:
- Keeping the bedroom cool, dark, and quiet.
- Avoiding caffeine and strenuous exercise in the evening.
- Relaxing in a warm bath or doing relaxation exercises before bedtime.
- Talking with your healthcare provider about other ways you can improve your sleep.
Chronic pain studies showed that meditation had positive effects on pain, quality of life, and functional status. Medical professionals believe meditation may help people with arthritis manage their pain and symptoms of depression.
Meditation and relaxation techniques may help reduce the pain of arthritis by lowering stress and enabling you to cope with it better. Reducing stress may also help lower inflammation and pain.
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), studies have found that practicing mindfulness meditation is helpful for some people with RA.
Many people overlook the effects of footwear on arthritis of the spine, hips, knees and ankles. Having the improper footwear can lead to additional strain to certain joints depending on the individual resulting in pain and loss of movement.
Get a Massage
Massage can provide an overall sense of well-being. It may also help manage joint pain and discomfort. Ask your doctor to recommend a massage therapist who has experience in treating people with arthritis. Alternatively, you could ask a physical therapist to teach you self-massage.
Keep working with your physical therapist
Arthritis pain and stiffness should not stop you from living a great quality of life. The combination of physical therapy, health diet, wearing proper shoes, managing bad days with cold/heat and exercising safely will help you become the best version of your physical self. Contact a physical therapy specialist in Baltimore, MD, like the office of LeMoine Physical Therapy to get started on your personalized physical therapy program and start enjoying a better life. Talk with your physical therapist about changes in your arthritis symptoms. This can help him or her determine the right treatment for you.