If you had to guess...Who do you think is the most important person that will be involved in helping with your arthritis? That's right. YOU! If you’ve been diagnosed with arthritis, you’ll probably have several healthcare professionals on your team, but the most important person on this team is you. You've probably always heard, "if you want something done right, you've got to do it yourself."
All this really means is taking the time to make positive and healthy lifestyle choices for yourself, and then putting them into action. Having arthritis affects everyone differently, so it’s up to you to learn and practice what helps you to live well and prosper. If you'll do this, you find it will make big differences in how much arthritis affects your quality of life.
This will allow you to continue to say YES to the things that are important to you. Determine what you may need to change (whether it's activities, diet, exercise or stress level). Make a plan and ask your family and your support network to help you keep on track.
1. Get Organized
Only you can take charge of your treatment plan. Keep track of symptoms, levels of pain, your medications, and any possible side effects. Discuss those with your doctor, so that you can determine what works best for you.
2. Manage pain and fatigue
If your pain gets ahead of you, dealing with that and its effect on your body can be overwhelming. Combine your medication regimen with some non-medical pain management techniques. Fatigue is a very common problem that can be caused by the underlying disease process going on in your body or even the stress of living day to day with the pain and limitations of a chronic disease. Using some of these natural therapies to manage fatigue is key to living well with arthritis.
3. Stay active
What? This is THE LAST THING you might want to do. However, exercise is beneficial for managing arthritis and your overall health. It can strengthen muscles that support your painful joints, preserve and increase joint range of motion, improve sleep quality, boost your mood and sense of well-being and help you lose excess pounds that add stress to painful joints.
4. Balance activity with rest
The most important thing you can do to help yourself is to get your rest. Rest is important when your disease is active and your joints feel painful, swollen or stiff. Do what you can to lighten your schedule and obligations and then ask for help when you need to. Pace yourself throughout your day and take breaks to conserve energy.
5. Eat a healthy balanced diet
Combining a healthy diet with exercise can help you feel better, achieve, and maintain a healthy weight. Also, adding foods that are rich in antioxidants and have anti-inflammatory properties are recommended.
6. Improve Sleep
Poor sleep habits can worsen arthritis pain and fatigue, but there are things you can do to help you fall asleep and stay asleep. Make your bedroom dark, cool and quiet, avoid caffeine or strenuous exercise in the evening, and wind down with a warm bath or practice relaxation techniques before bedtime. Still have trouble sleeping? Talk to your doctor about a change in or timing of your medication or other ways that may improve your sleep.
If you invest in yourself and recognize your responsibility – and ability – to take good care of yourself, you can live well with arthritis. You’ll need to make adjustments, but make sure your goals are realistic, even if they involve only small steps right now.
Yes, there’s a lot to learn about living with arthritis. Getting in control might take some time. It’s going to mean making some changes in your life, but you can start with small changes, and you don’t have to make them all at once. Try to stay positive and work with your doctor to find the right combination of treatments. And you don’t have to do it alone.
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