If you’re living with osteoarthritis, you’re not alone. According to Harvard Medical School, some 27 million Americans are affected by osteoarthritis, making it the most common form of arthritis. While it may be disheartening to learn about the size of the disease’s impact, there’s a definite silver lining: Since living with osteoarthritis is an experience that so many people share, there are lots of tips available.
Tips for Living with Osteoarthritis
Osteoarthritis is sometimes referred to as wear-and-tear arthritis. As the Arthritis Foundation explains, it’s a nickname that reflects an outdated view of the condition. While doctors used to consider it the inevitable result of the wearing down of joints over time, experts now recognize it as a joint disease driven by the breakdown of cartilage, which is the smooth tissue normally nestled between bones. Although any joint can be affected, it most commonly involves the hands, knees, hips, neck, and lower back. Thankfully, the disease tends to start gradually and worsen slowly over time, so people impacted by it have time to learn how to manage their condition. There are several things that you can do to make living with osteoarthritis easier.
Exercise is good for your overall health and for combating the stiffness and weakness often associated with osteoarthritis. A solid exercise plan should include strengthening exercises that build up the muscles around painful joints to improve stability and reduce the stress on them. Range-of-motion exercises will help thwart stiffness and tension. Balance exercises can improve strength and reduce fall risks, and aerobic and cardio exercises can support stamina.
Maintain a Healthy Weight
Excess weight puts unnecessary pressure on damaged joints, so maintaining a healthy weight is vital for people with osteoarthritis. Eating right and exercising regularly is part of a healthy lifestyle and a great way to keep extra pounds at bay.
Use Assistive Devices and Adaptive Equipment
Sore, swollen, painful joints can make it hard to do the things that you love. They can also interfere with your ability to complete mundane, everyday tasks. Thankfully, there is a wide array of assistive devices and adaptive equipment available. Shoe inserts and braces can help you retain more of your mobility, allow you to do more with less pain, and protect your joints. Devices designed to make gripping easier or take the strain off of damaged joints allow people with osteoarthritis to function more independently, giving them the ability and freedom to do things their way and on their own time.
Learn from Physical Therapists
Many people are resistant to participating in physical therapy. Some are afraid it will hurt. Others consider it a waste of time or a sign of weakness. The reality is that physical and occupational therapists can be amazing allies for people who want to minimize the interference of osteoarthritis. While they may not be unable to undo the joint damage, they can help sufferers learn exercises that strengthen their muscles, improve their balance, and increase their flexibility. In addition, these professionals can provide welcome tips on how to complete tasks without aggravating or worsening a joint’s condition. They can also offer suggestions regarding assistive devices and adaptive equipment that might be useful and provide advice on how to use this equipment.
Participate in Your Treatment
Osteoarthritis normally progresses slowly. That gives patients time to learn about their disease, explore the pros and cons of various treatments, and educate themselves about signs of the disease’s progression. There are numerous treatments available, so you can work with your doctor to find the treatment or combination of treatments that works best for your unique needs. Being an advocate for your health can be empowering, and developing a good relationship with your doctor can help ensure that you get quality care. When reviewing your condition with your doctor, be honest about any changes and clear about what is working and what is not.
Living with osteoarthritis may be frustrating at times, but you can manage the condition with some healthy habits, helpful tools, and expert guidance.
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