5 ways you can take control of arthritis
You can't always prevent the onset of arthritis, but making certain lifestyle changes can help keep your joints healthy and more mobile, helping you live life to the full again. We share 5 top tips from experts on how to manage arthritis at home, so you can live life to the full
Some people experience symptoms in flare ups (they come and go depending on certain factors such as the temperature or your exercise regime), and some people experience more constant symptoms that are difficult to control. Symptoms of arthritis include swelling and stiffness in your affected joint, a clicking sound when you move your joint, tenderness and inflammation, and limited mobility.
Arthritis can affect any joint, but more commonly affects your knees, fingers, hips, and shoulders. If you lead a highly active life filled with plenty of exercise, having arthritis can massively interfere with your ability to stay active. It can also interfere with more basic, everyday tasks like driving, cooking, and usual household chores. Arthritis can also affect your sleep - especially if it causes a constant, aching pain that can prevent you from sleeping properly, or if sleeping in certain positions puts pressure on your affect joint(s) and exacerbates your pain.
It's time to take control of arthritis
If you're living with arthritis and finding it hard to manage, you're not alone. According to the NHS, millions of people in the UK suffer from the condition. Luckily it's very treatable, and although advanced cases may require medical treatment or even surgery, many people can find significant relief from at-home remedies and lifestyle changes.
There are many ways people manage arthritis and take back control of their life. Here are 5 ways you can do it too.
1. Keep exercising
When you're feeling achy and in pain, the idea of exercising may not seem appealing. Some people also worry that exercise may make their joints worse. However, this is not the case. Physical activity is really important when it comes to managing arthritis and improving your overall health. In fact, exercise can increase muscle strength, reduce pain and improve mobility.
You don't need to do anything too strenuous either. Low-impact activities that are joint-friendly include walking, swimming and cycling. It's also important to balance exercise with adequate rest. We also recommend yoga and gentle stretching to help relax your muscles and improve your flexibility, which can have a positive impact on your overall joint health. It's always best to talk to your GP or consultant before exercising with arthritis. They'll advise which exercises are best suited to you depending on your type of arthritis and individual needs.
2. Eat well
What you eat - and don't eat - plays an important role in the management of arthritis. Unlike genetics, diet is something we are in control of and making certain dietary changes can be beneficial.
The Mediterranean diet has long been celebrated for its health benefits. This type of diet places emphasis on anti-inflammatory foods such as fruits and vegetables, yoghurt, fresh fish, and healthy fats such as olive oil and nuts. It also limits the intake of potentially inflammatory foods like red meat and dairy. One of the best things about following a Mediterranean diet is that it's hugely varied, meaning it doesn't feel restrictive or limiting while helping you embrace a healthier lifestyle. You can still enjoy the odd treat or two and maintain a healthy, balanced diet.
One study by The National Institute of Health found that although this diet won't eradicate symptoms, incorporating them into your daily lifestyle may help to delay disease progression and reduce damage to joints in people with rheumatoid arthritis.
Is there an osteoarthritis diet?
There is no diet that will cure arthritis, and while you might come across discussions of food to avoid with osteoarthritis, it's important not to focus on depriving yourself or cutting anything out.
Instead, focus on eating a variety of whole foods to get all the nutrients you need. As above, the Mediterranean diet is a great way to do this.
3. Maintain a healthy weight
If you're overweight and you have arthritis, you may want to consider shedding some pounds to help you maintain a healthy weight.
According to the Arthritis Foundation, osteoarthritis is more severe in obese people than those who weigh less, and people with higher levels of fat in their body are more likely to need a hip or knee replacement. For those who are obese or overweight, losing weight has many benefits. It can reduce pressure on your joints, ease pain and inflammation and reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and even depression. You will find that when your diet improves and you lose some weight, you will likely experience an increase in overall energy, which will help you exercise and maintain your healthier weight.
Maintaining a healthy diet and weight also has a direct impact on your mental health. Poor diet and exercise create a cycle of disability, lack of exercise, and therefore lack of motivation.
4. Avoid alcohol
It's thought that drinking alcohol in moderation may reduce your risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis. However, if you already have arthritis, the consumption of alcohol may cause more harm than good.
One of the main concerns of drinking alcohol when you have arthritis is the potential interactions with medication. Many painkillers or anti-inflammatory drugs don't mix well with alcohol and can have harmful side effects, such as stomach bleeding and ulcers. If you do drink alcohol, you also run the risk of falling and injuring your affected joint further. Studies have shown that alcohol consumption could be related to increased inflammatory markers in people with arthritis.
If you have arthritis and are thinking about drinking alcohol, make sure to speak to your doctor for advice first.
5. Try your best to combat stress
Arthritis can make carrying out simple daily tasks difficult, which can be stressful. Yet stress itself may cause physical effects which can negatively impact on your overall health. If you have rheumatoid arthritis, getting stressed may make your pain worse.
Stress isn't all bad - it can push you to achieve personal goals and stay motivated at work. However, too much stress can cause physical symptoms, as well as emotional. Studies by Harvard Health show that stress can weaken your immune system and your brain's cerebrovascular (blood flow) system. Stress can increase your susceptibility to colds, flu and fatigue. According to the NHS, feeling stressed can cause dizziness, stomach problems, headaches, and muscle tension. If you already have a painful joint condition such as arthritis, muscle problems will increase tension around you joints, exacerbating pain and stiffness.
If you're unaware of exactly what is triggering your stress, it's useful to write a diary and keep track of how you feel in stressful situations. We advise keeping a stress management diary for at least two to four weeks. You can then review your stress management diary and establish what triggers your stress, helping you build a stress management plan.
It's essential to have 'me time'. During this time, make sure your emails and notifications are switched off (if this applies to you). This break from the stress of work and screen time allows you to focus on yourself - and it can be for as short as 30 minutes every day. Meditation is another stress relief technique that you can do to combat stress. The deep breathing exercises used in meditation can lower your blood pressure and reduce your risk of developing heart disease.
If you are struggling with stress, a counsellor or therapist can help support you and provide you with advice on stress management.
Get help today
While living with arthritis is challenging, there are so many ways you can manage your symptoms and lead a happy, healthy life. And it starts with the five tips shared above.
Of course, what works for one person may not work for another. But making the decision to take control of your health, and trying new ways of managing your arthritis, may improve your physical symptoms as well as your mental wellbeing.
For more top tips on managing arthritis, give us a call or book online today to arrange a consultation with one of our experienced joint specialists.