My “_____” hurts! Do I have Arthritis?
Let’s face it, we’ve all had it…that pain; in your wrist, your knee, your ankle. Stiffness in your leg after than long drive? As I have gotten older I have had all of these. But do I have Arthritis?
That’s a good question! Really the only person that can answer that for you is your doctor. And that’s a problem. Many people think they have arthritis, but for some reason never discuss it with their doctors. Some just say, “well, I must just be getting older.” They just assume nothing can be done about it. And younger people with joint pain, swelling or stiffness might not even consider arthritis.
Arthritis might seem simple, but it’s really not. There are many different kinds of arthritis and they can start in many ways. It can come on slowly and be mild, or it can start suddenly and cause intense pain that surges within a few hours. The symptoms can come and go. It might cause the classic issues of joint pain, swelling and stiffness, or it may cause what seem to be unrelated health problems, like fatigue or a rash. Early signs of arthritis might be mistaken for an injury or the result of “too much” activity. Not all of them mean you have to run to the doctor, but some are more serious than others.
If you are having symptoms like these, you owe it to yourself to get it checked out. Most people start with their personal physician but then can be referred to specialists as necessary. If you are having issues with your joints it can affect your quality of life, your independence, and your overall wellness. Some types of arthritis can even cause damage to the heart and other organs from the start.
OK, It Hurts, What Do I Do Now?
Many people that have some form of arthritis suffer from pain chronically. (Chronic means it lasts 3 to 6 months or longer.) It can be constant, or it can come and go. Regardless of how the pain hits you, it makes it very hard to perform daily activities like cleaning the house, dressing, or looking after your kids. However, there are ways to effectively manage chronic arthritis pain. Here is what you can do to feel better.
Take Your Medications
Manage Your Weight and Stay Active
Ten to 15 pounds can makes a huge difference. Excess weight causes pressure on your joints and can increase pain. Excess fat in your tissues sends out chemical signals that increase inflammation. And being overweight is bad for your overall health, as it increases your chances for heart disease, diabetes and even some cancers. Watch what you eat. Eat plenty of vegetables, fresh fruit, whole grains and lean protein, such as beans, poultry, and fish. Try to stay away from processed foods, red meat, and sugary drinks.
Activities like walking, joining a water aerobics program at your local gym, or maybe even some yoga can help reduce joint pain and improve flexibility, balance and strength. Cardiovascular exercise, like biking on a stationary bike, also helps keep your heart in shape. If you have any questions, talk to your doctor before beginning.
Keep a Positive Attitude
My family always called it “PMA,” or Positive Mental Attitude. Many people with chronic arthritis pain find that a positive attitude can significantly boost their ability to cope with pain. Try not to give in to pain. Find ways to keep your mind off it. Do the things you enjoy – like a hobby or spending time with family and friends – to keep your spirits high.
If pain is the worst of the symptoms of arthritis that you suffer, then just managing that pain can exhaust you. Being fatigued, in turn, can worsen pain and make it more difficult to manage.
Another is to make sure to eat well. Choose what you eat with care—healthy foods are your energy source. Reaching for nuts, fruits and vegetables, and whole grains will help your body make the energy it needs.
Get your rest. Be consistent. Go to bed and get up at about the same time every day. Each night, follow the same bedtime routine; this will signal your body that it’s time to sleep. Whether it’s taking a warm bath, reading a book, listening to music or doing a crossword puzzle, the ritual is right if it works for you.
Give yourself a break. Listen to your body and rest between activities. Rest allows muscles to refuel for more activity. Plan regular time for breaks each day.
We’re Here for You!
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. Remember that each person is unique in what works for them. And you don’t have to do it alone. If you aren’t on our mailing list and would like to keep up with what we are learning, sign up below. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out and ask. I’m here to help!