10 Ways You Can Fight Arthritis

It Begins and Ends With Commitment

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It is a fact that there is no cure for most types of arthritis. But, it is not as hopeless as that sounds. You can fight arthritis. You can actually manage the disease as long as you are committed to the fight and are fighting the right way (i.e., doing the right things consistently).

Fighting arthritis is about reducing joint pain, decreasing arthritis symptoms, slowing disease progression, and minimizing its intrusiveness in your life—all while maintaining joint function, mobility, independence, and normalcy.

Here are 10 ways to approach the fight. You have heard of most, while some may seem irrelevant or unnecessary. To win the fight against arthritis, which translates to living well with arthritis, you likely need to do all of these things regularly. The most essential element is commitment—commitment that must come from you.   

As we go through the ways to fight arthritis, it is important to remember that not all of them will have dramatic impact. In fact, the impact of some may be so subtle that you think it is not making any difference at all. Collectively, though, this may arguably be the optimal way to fight arthritis. 

1 - Take Your Prescribed Medications

Your doctor has likely prescribed medications to help control pain and other arthritis symptoms, as well as medications that may affect progression of the disease. For the medications to be effective, you must take them as directed. I bet you are thinking that I just stated the obvious.

Of course you have to take your medications, right? Compliance is a very real issue though. Too often, people skip doses or forget altogether. There are different ways to remind yourself. Determine what will work best for you as a reminder. Make this a priority. To fight arthritis, you need to take your medications as prescribed.

2 - Eat a Healthy Diet and Include Anti-inflammatory Foods

A healthy diet is recommended for everyone. That is self-explanatory. In addition to the benefits of healthy eating, people with arthritis—especially inflammatory types of arthritis—should learn which foods are thought to increase inflammation and which foods reduce inflammation. Trial and error, to see if any changes to your diet make a difference, is worth your effort in the fight against arthritis.

3 - Participate in Regular Exercise and Physical Activity

This is so important, perhaps I should have made it number "1" on the list. It cannot be emphasized enough. But, these really aren't in order of importance or effect. To reiterate, we who live with arthritis must do all of these things to fight the good fight. Exercise, movement, and physical activity are essential for strengthening muscles around the joints. It also helps to maintain or improve bone strength, as well as overall strength and energy level. Exercise also impacts sleep quality, the ability to maintain your ideal weight, and overall wellness. It should not be considered an option. Exercise and some form of movement is necessary, essential, and mandatory in the fight against arthritis.

Daily preferably—but, certainly regularly.

4 - Get Adequate Sleep—It's Essential

Sleep problems are a reality for people who have arthritis. The problem is made greater, too, because it is often not dealt with. People with arthritis think it just goes with the territory and that nothing can be done to solve it. In fact, there are things that should be tried to switch your sleep cycle from inadequate to adequate. If this is a problem for you, be sure to discuss it with your doctor. While it is a fact that arthritis pain can disrupt sleep, bringing attention to the problem is part of fighting arthritis.

5 - Focus on Joint Protection During Daily Activities

Improper body mechanics (i.e., movements) can increase pain in arthritic joints, and possibly injure healthy joints. It is important to be mindful of protecting your joints. Actually, it goes beyond being aware of body position. Joint protection includes using assistive devices when necessary and appropriate, balancing rest and activity, and not carrying excess weight which adds burden to the joints. That's the ultimate goal of following joint protection principles—to avoid adding stress to your joints whenever and however that is possible. It's a big part of fighting arthritis.

6 - Make the Effort to Lower Your Stress Level

It has been suggested that stress may be a trigger for certain types of arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis. Many people with rheumatoid arthritis are able to point to a stressful event in their lives that occurred within months of their initial symptoms. Coincidence or not? Who can know for sure? It is a more accepted theory, though, that stress can provoke a flare up of arthritis. Therefore, whether it is an established factor in the development of the disease or simply a factor in making it worse, we need to be attentive to its effect and minimize stress as much as possible. It's part of the fight.

7 - If You Need Help, Ask!

Physical limitations and functional limitations are part of living with arthritis. As much as we are in denial about it, this means that at some point you will not be able to do everything you once did. Arthritis will likely make it more difficult to do household chores, grocery shopping, and yard work. Usual daily activities are made more difficult. It is frustrating to say the least. You may be forced to ask for help. Remember your friends and family members who said to ask if you need something? It's time to ask. It's part of fighting the effects of arthritis.

8 - Say "Yes" to Something Everyday

Arthritis can be the great intruder. Of course, how much it intrudes depends on the severity of your disease. It can enter your life and disrupt normalcy. As things progress and worsen, you naturally begin to focus on what you can't do versus what you can do. It is as important to fight this as it is to fight the physical aspects of the disease. Catch yourself as you are about to say no to something and switch it up by saying yes instead. Yes, you will go for that walk (get your exercise)! Yes, you will call your friend and make a lunch date (fight the isolation)! Yes, you will get out to observe nature (rejuvenate and refresh by looking at the stars or mountains or birds)! Those are a few examples but the point is to consciously step away from the pain somehow—and do it everyday!

9 - Say "No" to Something Everyday

Part of learning to live well with arthritis has to do with balance, meaning, knowing how to pace yourself and not overdo. There are physical limitations that are real and you must learn to respect that. That you can no longer do everything you once did because of chronic pain is a difficult thing to realize and reconcile in your mind. It is not only okay to say "no" sometimes, it is necessary. Understanding your reality is part of winning the fight against arthritis.

10 - Assess and Re-assess Your Struggles Constantly

Recognize your struggles that are ongoing and which aspects of your life with arthritis need more attention. Is your pain not adequately controlled? Are you depressed? Are you isolated and lonely? Are you having trouble keeping up with your work inside the home or at your job? Are you having financial problems due to the cost of medical care and treatment? Do you feel that no one understands? Your doctor can be your first point of contact in trying to solve your problems. While your doctor will not readily have an answer for every problem, he will be able to guide you or refer you to those who may provide solutions. It is your responsibility to speak up and shine a light on your struggles. Seek the help you need. If you try to deny the problem or keep quiet, there will be no chance for resolution. It's part of fighting arthritis—open communication and perseverance.

The Bottom Line

To pack the biggest punch in the fight against arthritis, the 10 aforementioned actions should be done routinely and become habit. It takes commitment from you. No one can do it for you. It is your responsibility. You are not only fighting the physical impact of arthritis, but the emotional impact as well.  

Source:

Kelley's Textbook of Rheumatology. Ninth edition. Elsevier.

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