If you have arthritis it can be disruptive and distressing. Daily tasks are made difficult because of the pain and stiffness, even things like putting on socks or cooking dinner become an exhausting ordeal. To be able to live a full life, it is important to take measures to take good care of yourself. This will help to improve function, relieve pain, and cope with the difficult emotions arthritis can sometimes bring. Doctors believe a combination of medication and nondrug treatment is recommended for people who have osteoarthritis of the hip and knee. These methods can include physical therapy, healthy eating, and complementary therapies, such as massage and acupuncture. Here are some home strategies and therapies that can help you protect your joints, save energy, accomplish your daily tasks, and adapt to any lifestyle challenges you may have.
- Stay moving. Avoid staying in one position a long period of time. If you are working at a desk, for example, get up and stretch every 15 minutes. Do the same thing if you are sitting at home reading or watching television. Make sure you have a comfortable ergonomic chair that supports your body. On that note, a workstation where all your actions can be done within your specific range of motion will also be very beneficial. If you are on the phone often throughout the day, choose a hands-free headset instead of clenching a phone between your shoulder and your head. They key is to not allow your body to become stagnant in a position. Any sort of stretching is going to keep adding to your motility. It would be good to practice low stress activities such as yoga or light swimming exercises as daily moving sessions.
- Avoid putting stress on your joints. It is recommended to avoid any positions or movements that put extra stress on sensitive joints. Look for creative ways to make little jobs easier. One example is opening a tight lid. If you have hand arthritis, this can be very difficult. One solution is to set the jar on a cloth, lean on the jar with your palm; and turn the lid using a shoulder motion. To take it a step further, you can purchase a wall-mounted jar opener that grips the lid, leaving both hands free to turn the jar, and giving your joints a soothing vacation.
- Discover your strong areas. Be strategic with your body’s abilities by using your strongest joints and muscles. For example, to protect finger and wrist joints, push open heavy doors with the side of the arm or shoulder. If you are taking the stairs and want to reduce hip or knee stress on stairs, lead with the stronger leg going up and the weaker leg going down.
- Plan ahead. Simplify your life as much as possible. Take away any unnecessary activities (try buying clothing that doesn’t need ironing). Organize your work and storage areas to keep from having to dig through piles of work, store frequently used items within easy reach. Keep duplicate household items in several places, for example, you could stock the kitchen and all bathrooms with cleaning supplies. This will give you convenient help throughout your day.
- Use labor-saving items and aids. Technology is always being invented to make our lives easier each day. Use this to your advantage by leaving some jobs to the machines. In the kitchen, use electric can openers and mixers. In the bathroom, cut down on scrubbing by using automatic toilet bowl cleaners and, in showers or tubs, spray-on mildew remover. There is a wide variety of other devices on the market that can help you avoid unnecessary bending, reaching, and stooping.
- Make some home modifications. Make your house fit your lifestyle needs. A grab bar mounted over the tub is a necessity for many people needing stability, as is a suction mat in the tub to prevent falls. Putting a comfortable bathing stool in the tub or shower is a great idea for people who have arthritis in the legs. You’ll enjoy your daily life to the fullest by taking care of small details to improve your day to day activities.
- Ask for help. While maintaining independence is essential to our self-esteem, independence at all costs is a recipe for disaster. We all need help in some way or another. You can achieve a healthy and helpful balance by educating family members and friends about the disease and the limitations it places on you and enlisting their support. Ask for help with specific tasks that will allow you to conserve your energy for more deserving tasks.
- Fit your Clothes to your life: There may be days when putting on your favorite outfit is too much effort for your joints. Make sure you have comfortable clothes that slip on instead of requiring to be pulled over your head. You can also put larger pulls on zippers to make them easier to grasp. On days when your arthritis is particularly difficult, choose raglan style sleeves over tailored sleeves and clothing without buttons.
- Continue to enjoy your favorite activities: Joint pain doesn’t have to keep you from gardening or any of your other favorite things. You simply have to invest in more appropriate tools. For gardening, the key is to get larger and lighter hand tools. Look for lighter versions of large tools, like an aluminum rake rather than a wood-handled one. Make sure there is comfortable outdoor seating for you to rest on, such as a cushioned bench or knee pillow.
- Lift Weights: Although lifting weights with sore joints may sound like a bad idea, research shows that strength training has many long-term benefits for people with rheumatoid arthritis. To get the most out of a workout routine, it's best if you work with a qualified trainer, especially when first starting a strength-training program as part of your rheumatoid arthritis treatment. This will ensure that you are not hurting yourself and have correct form to receive all of the numerous benefits.
Arthritis is a challenging disease, but it doesn’t have to keep you from living your life. By following these steps, and making a plan with your doctor, your life can be adventurous and completely vibrant. Give us a call today to find out what treatment would be the most beneficial for your specific needs.