Think there's nothing you can do about arthritis? Great news! You can act right now. Some of the ideas here are simple, one-time actions. Others are first steps toward longer-term goals. All can directly or indirectly improve your health, outlook and pain level or can make life with arthritis a little easier.
- Pay attention to symptoms, see your doctor and get an accurate diagnosis
If you have pain, stiffness or swelling in or around a joint for more than two weeks, it's time to see your doctor. These symptoms can develop suddenly or slowly. Only a doctor can tell if it's arthritis. But "you have arthritis" is not a diagnosis. Ask for a specific diagnosis of the type of arthritis you have. There are more than 100 types, each of which has different treatments. Getting the right treatment requires getting the right diagnosis.
- Start early
The earlier an accurate diagnosis is made and treatment started, the better. Early treatment can often mean less joint damage and less pain. Your doctor may recommend a combination of treatments that may include medication, weight management, exercise, use of heat or cold, and methods to protect your joints from further damage. See your doctor for an early diagnosis and immediate treatment plan!
- Don't be afraid to check out holistic practitioners
Many people find great relief from acupuncture, herbs, massage, electrotherapy from chiropractors, physiotherapists.
- Protect your joints
Avoid excess stress on your joints. Use larger or stronger joints to carry things. Assistive devices can make tasks at home and work easier. Staying close to your recommended weight also helps relieve damaging pressure on hips and knees.
- Get moving
Exercise helps lessen pain, increases range of movement, reduces fatigue and helps you feel better overall. Your doctor, a physical therapist, or other specially trained health professionals can show you range-of-motion exercises and strengthening exercises that are good for arthritis.
- Tune in
Listening to your favorite music can lighten your mood and may even help you to forget your pain - at least for a little while. Make a tape of your favorite upbeat tunes and listen to it when you need a lift.
- Pick, pour or peel
If you are looking for a tasty healthy treat, reach for an orange - or a tall glass of orange juice. Why? Recent research has shown the importance of vitamin C and other antioxidants in reducing the risk of osteoarthritis and its progression. Another bonus: oranges and other citrus fruits are good sources of folic acid, which can help alleviate the side effects of the arthritis drug methotrexate and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease in women who have lupus.
- Check out your options
In the past two years, the FDA has approved several drugs for rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis and other arthritis-related diseases. If your current medication isn't working as well as you'd like - or if it's causing unacceptable side effects - ask your health care provider about these new treatment options.
- Face facts
Learn something new about arthritis. Building an understanding of your disease is an important step in managing it.
- Play in the dirt
Buy the seeds for three of your favorite veggies or flowers and plant a garden. Digging in the dirt can be therapeutic for sore hands and can yield beautiful and fragrant - or delicious and nutritious - results.
- Have a good laugh
Read a book of jokes, rent a funny movie or watch your favorite sit-com or stand-up comedian. Laughing - even when you feel like crying from agony - can relax muscles, relieve pain and even boost your immune system.
- Play it safe in the sun
Protect yourself when you go out into the sun. Wear sunglasses, a hat and sun screen. Some forms of arthritis, as well as certain medications, can leave you more vulnerable to the sun's harmful rays.
- Resolve to reduce
Lose weight. You won't just look better, you'll feel better, too. Why? Every extra pound you carry around translates to added stress to your knees and hips. Excess weight can mean more pain, no matter which form of arthritis you have. It can also contribute to and aggravate osteoarthritis, while increasing your risk of gout.
- Bone up
Stock up on your favorite source of calcium, Calcium, magnesium citrate & malate are the most absorbable known. A diet rich in these important minerals can help decrease your risk of osteoporosis. If you don't like drinking milk - try consuming products, such as yogurt, cheese and ice cream. Or add powdered milk to puddings, gravies, shakes and other recipes. Other good sources of calcium: broccoli, salmon (with the bones) and kale.
- Begin with breakfast
Put up the pastry and grab some fruit, fiber (like oatmeal) and a tall glass of water instead of coffee. Like you've always heard, a healthful breakfast is a great way to start the day.
- Try this on for size
It's time to toss those fashionable, yet oh, so uncomfortable pumps that cramp your toes, rub your heels and squeeze your bunions. A well padded, well fitting shoe with plenty of room for your toes - and their imperfections - can make a world of difference in the way your feet (and the rest of you) feel.
- Take a hike
Choose your favorite spots (indoors and out) and make plans to walk them at least once a week. Walking is the ideal exercise for most people with arthritis. It burns calories, strengthens muscles and builds denser bones - all without jarring fragile joints.
- Sit, soak and soothe
A warm bath before bed can relieve muscle tension, ease aching joints and help you get a good night's sleep.
- Treat your muscles
Find a massage therapist and treat yourself to a good rub down. The benefits vary from person to person but may include decreased pain and increased circulation, energy and flexibility.
- Work smarter
Do something that will make your job easier! Check into working flex hours, telecommuting or working part-time. No matter where or when you work, take frequent breaks to stretch stiff joints and sore muscles.
- Fess up
Be sure to tell your health care provider about the medications you're taking, both prescription and over the counter. Don't forget to mention any nutritional supplements you're taking, too. All medications - even natural ones - have the potential to cause side effects or to react adversely with each other.
- Write away
Keeping a journal is fun and therapeutic. Best of all, there are no rules. Write about your feelings, fears, frustrations and fun times. Write about things you'd never tell another living soul. Write about anything - or nothing in particular. Just write.
- Stretch your legs
Stretching is a simple way to keep joints and muscles flexible. It relieves stress and can help enable you to maintain your daily activities. Try this to keep your calf muscles strong and flexible: Stand two feet from a wall, with your toes pointed inward palms against the wall. Keeping your knees straight and feet flat, lean forward onto your hands without bending at the waist. Feel your calf muscles pull and extend. Hold this position for 10 seconds, then gently push away from the wall. Repeat.
- Take the plunge
Exercising in the water can build strength and increase range of motion, while the water's buoyancy reduces wear and tear on sore joints. Check the local YMCA or call your local health clubs for an aquatic exercise program in your area.
- Make a pack
When joints are hot and inflamed, applying something cold can decrease pain and swelling by constricting blood vessels and preventing fluids from leaking into surrounding tissues. Our favorite ice pack: a bag of frozen peas or corn that can be molded to the shape of your body.
- Kick butt
If only for a day, and then another, and another. Smoking can increase your risk of complications from lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. It can predispose you to osteoporosis. Also, if you have to undergo joint surgery, smoking can prolong your recovery.
- Open your heart
Select a group that holds a special place in your heart such as the elderly, the homeless or animals and volunteer with an organization that helps them. Or raise money for a cause you believe in. Helping others can be a great way to help you forget your own problems - or at least put them into perspective.
- Enjoy Your Exercise
Take the work out of working out. Sign up for a class that makes exercise fun -country line dancing, ballroom dancing, swimming, yoga or tai chi.
- Play 20 questions
Well, maybe not 20, but write down questions about your condition or your medications as you think of them. Prioritize them and slip them into your purse or wallet before your next doctor's visit. When you see the doctor, you'll have your top concerns at your fingertips.
- Appeal to a higher power
No one knows exactly how, but research is showing that spiritual belief and prayer can help people feel better physically and emotionally. Prayer is powerful!
- Resolve to reduce
Lose weight. You won't just look better- you'll feel better, too. Every extra pound you gain puts four times the stress on your knees. The flip side is that even a small amount of weight loss will give your knees relief. Research has shown that losing as little as 11 pounds may cut your risk of osteoporosis of the knee by 50 percent.
- Picture portion sizes
Eating proper portions is key to losing and maintaining a healthy weight and, in turn, lightening the load on your joints. Brush up on proper portion sizes and picture visual comparisons. For instance: One serving of meat-3 ounces-is the size of the palm of your hand; one serving of dairy-say 2 ounces of cheese-is the size of a pair of dominoes; one serving of vegetables-1 cup- is the size of your fist.
- Turn off the tube
Television not only keeps you sedentary, which slows your metabolism, it also makes you prone to overeating. Read a good book instead, or better yet, pop on those cross trainers and hit the road.
Natural Alternatives for Arthritis
Inflammation & Pain