About 54 million adults in the U.S. have arthritis, according to the Arthritis Foundation, and that number is expected to swell to 78 million in just two decades. Everyone knows arthritis causes joint pain, but unless you have the disease yourself, you probably don’t know how extensive those symptoms can be. For some people with arthritis, even the simplest activities like walking, climbing stairs, and getting dressed can cause significant pain, and as joint dysfunction takes over, even those activities may be too hard and too painful to manage.
Today, arthritis typically is managed with some type of pain medication to reduce symptoms, which is fine up to a point. The problem is, many pain medications come with some serious side effects, especially when taken over a long period of time or in large or increasing doses — and that includes over-the-counter medicines as well. Gastrointestinal problems, liver or kidney damage, sleep problems, and addiction are all possible risks with many types of pain medicines, and of course, the risks increase the longer you take these drugs. The problem is that, because arthritis is a chronic and degenerative disease, people who suffer from the disease can have increasing levels of pain and dysfunction for the rest of their lives. That means it’s especially important to find non-drug options for relieving arthritis symptoms.
At One Accord Physical Therapy, we use an array of treatment options, like manual therapy, therapeutic exercise, joint mobilization, and spinal manipulation, to help men and women manage their symptoms and lead more comfortable, active, and healthier lives. And we also help our patients learn steps they can take to improve their symptoms on their own. Here are five things you can do to improve your own symptoms.
1. Stay active
Leading a relatively inactive or sedentary lifestyle can increase joint stiffness and make moving even more uncomfortable. Try to incorporate some regular walking or swimming into your daily routine if you can, or consider learning tai chi. When you’re sitting at a desk or in front of the TV, take frequent breaks to stretch and move. Put those commercial breaks to work and use the time to stand, stretch, reach, and walk around. It’s good for your circulation, too.
2. Lose excess pounds
Excess weight increases the strain on your joints, and that means your symptoms can be exacerbated. Being more active (tip 1) and eating a healthy diet are both good ways to lose extra pounds. Your heart will thank you, too.
3. Manage your stress
Stress and anxiety often make chronic pain worse, and it’s no different with arthritis. Not only can stress make it harder to deal with your symptoms, but it can also cause you to tense your muscles, which puts more strain on your joints.
4. Retool your home
Today, there are lots of convenient, inexpensive accessories that can make it easier to do everyday tasks, including devices to help you grab and hold items and even put on your socks. Plenty of convenient household options are available online or at your local retailer. Finding relief might be as simple as swapping out your regular can opener for an electric version or finding a pen with a soft, comfort grip. In the bathroom, a grab bar in the tub, a shower seat, and a non-slip mat can improve your comfort and your safety. Reorganize drawers and cupboards so you don't have to reach far for items you use most often. Get rid of throw rugs and add nightlights to help prevent falls if you have arthritis in your feet or legs.
5. Get support
Arthritis is both chronic and degenerative, which means your symptoms may become worse as you get older. Finding a support group is one way to manage the stress and frustration that can occur when you're living with a painful condition day in and day out. It's also critically important to see your doctor regularly and to visit us at One Accord Physical Therapy so we can adjust your treatment program and ensure that it remains focused on your needs.
If you're suffering from arthritis, getting help for your symptoms as early as possible is the best way to reduce your symptoms and reduce future joint damage. To learn more about the treatment options we offer, book an appointment online today.