10 Things to Stop Doing If You Have Arthritis

Mindset Is As Important As Medication

Exercising
Exercising is ok even with arthritis. Tom Merton/OJO Images/Getty Images

Living with chronic pain and other debilitating symptoms of arthritis is tough. Even if you're working with an amazing doctor and have a tailor-made and effective treatment plan, it sometimes can be easy to fall off track and develop bad habits or a negative attitude. These are all problems you can overcome though. Here are ten ways to do that.

1. Stop Thinking You Can't Exercise

Many people who have arthritis are afraid if they're active they'll have more pain and so they just don't get any exercise.

This may be one of the biggest misconceptions about arthritis. At the same time, it's an ironic idea because inactivity actually makes pain and disability from arthritis worse over time, while regular exercise keeps joints moving and prevents stiffness, strengthens the muscles around the joints, and improves mobility. So if you've been sedentary out of fear you'll make your arthritis worse, talk to your doctor to make sure it's OK to exercise. Then start slowly with gentle, joint-friendly movements. It's fine to respect your arthritis pain, but you don't have to let it stop you.

2. Stop Giving in to a Sedentary Lifestyle

Not only do some people with arthritis think they can't exercise, they also believe they need to be more sedentary than is necessary. Of course, it's important to take it easy after an especially active day, or when your body is telling you to, but it shouldn't become a way of life.

3. Stop Eating an Unhealthy Diet That Packs on Pounds

What's your diet got to do with arthritis? Eating well and maintaining your ideal weight is especially important if you've got arthritis. Excess pounds can put lots of stress on weight-bearing joints, which is likely to make arthritis pain worse. Even moderate weight gain can stress joints that are already burdened by arthritis.

4. Stop Ignoring Your  Physical Limitations

Just as there are people with arthritis who aren't active at all, there are those who push beyond their limits. The trick is to pace your activities. Overdoing it is just as harmful as underdoing it. Pushing your limits can increase pain and put you at higher risk of joint damage. Respect pain and choose activities with your physical limitations in mind.

5. Stop Avoiding Mobility Aids Because Your Pride Gets in the Way

A cane, walker, or wheelchair may be necessary for some people with arthritis to stay independent and get around on their own. Understandably it can be tough to think about needing some sort of mobility aid, but if you do need one and don't use it you risk missing out on things you would enjoy. A cane or wheelchair doesn't define who you are, and no one will judge you or think less of you for using one. In fact, you'll probably be admired for getting out there and having fun in spite of needing a little help.

6. Stop Thinking That Your Arthritis is Going Away

Many forms of arthritis are chronic diseases, meaning they can't be cured. As tough as it is to accept this, it's important to try. By being realistic about arthritis from the beginning—from seeing a doctor as soon as you have symptoms so you can begin treatment quickly to understanding the condition isn't going away—you'll be able to make decisions that will keep you as healthy and active as possible.

7. Stop Fearing Medications That May Help You

Arthritis patients sometimes avoid painkillers because they're afraid they'll become addicted to them, or they choose not to use biologic drugs because they fear potential serious side effects. Remember, though, that your doctor would never prescribe something that might hurt you or that you could become dependent on as long as you take it as directed. Make sure you understand when and how much of your medication you should take, and how you should take it (with or without food, for example) and your arthritis meds should do nothing more than make it easier for you to live comfortably.

8. Stop Holding Back When You Consult With Your Doctor

It's tempting not to tell your doctor everything, especially if you're afraid you'll have to go through unpleasant testing or have to change the treatment regimen you're comfortable with. But in order for your doctor to have the best chance of helping you, he needs to know everything. Talk openly about what makes your condition better or worse, what concerns you have, and what you don't understand.

9. Stop Feeling Guilty

Arthritis can intrude on life. It can prevent you from doing some of the most mundane and normal things, such as taking care of your responsibilities at home or work. You may start to feel guilty when you can't do what you believe is expected of you. Be honest if you're struggling; the people who love you and care for you will understand and will be happy to help you work around your limitations.

10. Stop Asking "Why Me?"

There's no question about it: Arthritis can change your life in some tough-to-swallow ways. When you're in a lot of pain or having a particularly bad day, it's only human to find yourself wondering why you've been given this challenge—what you did to deserve such an unfair lot in life. Find ways to steer clear of this kind of thinking. It won't change anything, and it may even make things worse. A counselor or therapist can help guide you to a more positive mindset if you're struggling to find a way there yourself.

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