While healthcare professionals can prescribe or recommend treatments to help you manage your arthritis, it's the patient who has the most control over their condition. Living well and enjoying good health despite arthritis requires an everyday lifelong commitment. The following are six helpful habits:
- Get educated
To live well with osteoarthritis, it is useful to learn as much as you can about the disease. Three kinds of programs help people understand osteoarthritis, learn selfcare, and improve their good-health attitude. They are:
patient education programs
arthritis self-management programs
arthritis support groups.
These programs teach people about osteoarthritis, its treatments, exercise and relaxation, patient and healthcare provider communication, and problem solving. Research has shown that people who participate in these programs are more likely to have positive outcomes.
Regular physical activity plays a key role in self-care and wellness. Three types of exercise are important in osteoarthritis management:
Strengthening exercises, which help keep or increase muscle strength. Strong muscles help support and protect joints affected by arthritis.
Aerobic conditioning exercises, which improve cardiovascular fitness, help control weight, and improve overall function.
Range-of-motion exercises, which help reduce stiffness and maintain or increase proper joint movement and flexibility.
Most people with osteoarthritis exercise best when their pain is least severe. Start with an adequate warm-up and begin exercising slowly. Resting frequently ensures a good workout and reduces the risk of injury.
Before beginning any type of exercise program, consult your doctor or physical therapist to learn which exercises are appropriate for you and how to do them correctly, because doing the wrong exercise or exercising improperly can cause problems.
Though no specific diet will necessarily make your arthritis better, eating right and controlling your weight can help by minimizing stress on the weight-bearing joints such as the knees and the joints of the feet. It can also minimize your risk of developing other health problems.
Get Plenty of Sleep
Getting a good night's sleep on a regular basis can minimize pain and help you cope better with the effects of your disease. If arthritis pain makes it difficult to sleep at night, speak with your doctor and/or physical therapist about the best mattress or comfortable sleeping positions or the possibility of timing medications to provide more pain relief at night. You may also improve your sleep by getting enough exercise early in the day; avoiding caffeine or alcoholic beverages at night; keeping your bedroom dark, quiet, and cool; and taking a warm bath to relax and soothe sore muscles at bedtime.
While having osteoarthritis certainly isn't fun, it doesn't mean you have to stop having fun. If arthritis makes it difficult to participate in favorite activities, ask an occupational therapist about new ways to do them. Activities such as sports, hobbies, and volunteer work can distract your mind from your own pain and make you a happier, well-rounded person.
Maintain a Positive Attitude
Perhaps the best thing you can do for your health is to keep a positive attitude. People must decide to make the most of things when faced with the challenges of osteoarthritis. This attitude doesn't just happen. It takes work, every day. And with the right attitude, you will achieve it.