Living with arthritis

Caroline Cassidy
Man with arthritis pain
Man with arthritis pain

Arthritis is a painful and often debilitating condition, and though medical treatments are, of course, available, they sometimes provide only limited relief. However, there are ways in which you can help yourself, so if you're struggling to cope with the condition, here are a few tips that may help to ease the pain.

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A healthy diet
As well as benefiting your general health and wellbeing, a good balanced diet could help to reduce the symptoms of arthritis, particularly if you are currently overweight. According to Arthritis Research UK, obese patients that lose two stone could reduce knee pain by as much as 50 per cent, while some sufferers find that switching animal fats with vegetable or fish oils can ease inflammation in the joints. It's important, however, not to cut out whole food groups or be swayed by the many stories of how diet can 'cure' arthritis. A simple balanced and varied diet, with plenty of fresh fruit and veg for fibre and vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids, easily gained from oily fish, and cutting back on processed foods and red meats, should help you to maintain a healthy weight.

Though you may not feel like exercising, activity can actually help to reduce the pain of arthritis by improving joint mobility and range of movement, building muscle strength, and reducing stiffness. It will also help you to lose weight if that is exacerbating your symptoms, and relieve some of the stress of the condition. It's important to be realistic about what you can do so as not to make things worse, and choose the right kind of exercise. Low-impact exercise such as aqua aerobics, swimming, cycling, yoga and tai chi are often beneficial, while a physiotherapist should be able to recommend simple exercises that you can do at home to help. It is best to speak to your doctor or physiotherapist before embarking on an exercise regime. And don't forget that rest is also important, so pace yourself and try to balance activity with relaxation.

Stress relief
The pain of arthritis understandably causes stress, but when we're stressed, our muscles tense, and this can make the pain worse. That's why stress relief is so important. Relaxation, breathing exercises and meditation techniques may help to relax the muscles and the pain, while also reducing the risk of becoming depressed.

Practical tips and joint care
The pain of arthritis can make even the simplest, everyday tasks seem impossible, but with a few changes, you can make life a little easier and reduce your chances of damaging the joints further.

Simple changes such as not gripping objects too tightly, or using stronger joints (like the shoulder) to open doors will enable you to cope with more. Where possible, try to shift rather than lift heavy things, and as tempting as it may be, try not to sit in the same position for long periods of time, taking regular breaks throughout the day where you can move around to prevent the joints becoming stiff.
Above all, don't be afraid to talk about your feelings. As a long-term condition, arthritis can be very emotionally stressful as well as painful, so seek support from your GP, friends, family and support groups. Charities such as Arthritis Care and Arthritis Action can both provide support, advice, helplines and forums where you can talk to fellow sufferers who understand what you're going through, and these resources help many to cope with the condition.

Do you suffer with arthritis? What advice would you give to others suffering with this painful condition? Leave your comments below...

Self Management of Arthritis Pain
Self Management of Arthritis Pain