Living with arthritis isn’t easy. For many seniors, it can be an unpleasant addition to other health problems. As you lose your ability to do simple things like using a can opener, typing, or writing, your frustration will likely increase. Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) indicate that approximately 50 million people in the United States are living with some form of arthritis, making this crippling disease the country’s most common form of disability.
If you are handicapped by any form of arthritis, you know the limitations the disease imposes on your ability to work, move, and generally feel comfortable, and you are probably willing to try anything that might improve your quality of life. There are definitely things you can do to lessen the pain and possibly increase your mobility. Here are six ways you can self-manage an arthritis diagnosis and improve your quality of life.
- Diet – It can start as simple as the food you put into your mouth. Most of us try to eat a healthy diet, but for those with arthritis and other difficult health problems, it is essential. You need to ensure you’re getting all the nutrients your body needs to function at its highest level. Packaged foods and frozen dinners can lack the proper nutrition required. But with age you might find your desire or ability to cook lessens. You can start by looking up recipes designed to be simple and healthy. You can also look into a food service such as Meals on Wheels, who can provide what you need and bring it right to your doorstep.
- Exercise – This is something I discussed in detail in the past. Read the post, “How to Exercise When You Have Arthritis” for more! In general, your aim is to keep moving, whether in large or small ways. Always consult your doctor before embarking on a fitness regime. However, you can start by focusing on doing just a little, but doing it often. You can walk around your neighborhood in the morning, garden in the afternoon, and swim in the evening, as an example. Your muscles support your joints, so strengthening them can greatly reduce pain. Your doctor may have other suggestions.
- Rest – Make sure to get 7-9 hours sleep per night. A study published in the journal Arthritis Care and Research 2015 found that people who didn’t get sufficient sleep had increased levels of osteoarthritis knee pain. Avoid alcohol and caffeine, have a bath (a tip discussed next), and practice relaxation techniques if you find getting to sleep is difficult. Short naps, as long as they aren’t too close to evening time, can refresh you as well.
- Take a bath – Yes, really! This simple tip can have a multitude of benefits. Soaking in warm water makes your joints looser by reducing the force of gravity that’s compressing them. This offers 360-degree support for your sore limbs. It’ll decrease swelling and inflammation, and increase circulation. Be sure to go warm, but not too hot. Epsom salts are a great addition to your bath, which actually increase your magnesium – a mineral important for bone health. Be wary if you have diabetes, as it can stimulate insulin release. Ask your doctor first.
- Joint care – It’s important to look after your joints so as not to risk further damage. How can you reduce the stress on your joints while carrying out everyday tasks? Use larger, stronger joints as levers – for example, take the pressure of opening a heavy door on your shoulder rather than on your hand. You can also use several joints to spread the weight of an object – for example, use both hands to carry your shopping or distribute the weight evenly in a shoulder bag or rucksack.
Arthritis pain should not be a reason why you stop enjoying your everyday life. These are just a few options when it comes to self-care. Consult with your doctor for more ideas on what you can do from home.