Arthritis has the unfortunate power of changing your entire life. Everything from your ability to work, to your emotional well-being, can be affected.
According to the CDC- an estimated 27.7% (54.4 million) of American adults live with doctor-diagnosed arthritis. If that number wasn't staggering enough, the CDC also states that about 43.5% (23.7 million) of those doctor-diagnosed individuals face daily limitations due to their arthritis. These limitations can range from the ability to walk a 1/4 mile to reaching above one's head. Besides these 2 limitations, there are 7 more common daily activities that are cited as being challenging, or even impossible when living with arthritis:
Grip strength and ability.
Sit for 2 hours.
Lift or carry as much as 10 pounds.
Climb a flight of stairs without resting.
Push or pull heavy objects.
Stand for 2 hours.
Stoop, bend, or kneel.
Many of the above tasks are ones that most people take for granted, it's no wonder how arthritis can disrupt and steal so much of your life. If you've been diagnosed with arthritis you may even struggle with depression and/or anxiety due to chronic pain and fatigue. Therefore, it is so important that you take great care of yourself if you have been diagnosed with arthritis and find ways to maximize your health.
Finding ways to maximize your health when living with arthritis might just be easier than you think. Below are 5 simple ways to live a fuller, healthier life if you have arthritis:
Talk to your doctor about anti-inflammatory medication. Keeping an open dialogue between you and your doctor regarding your arthritis diagnosis, in general, is very important. Specifically, though, it's important to discuss your medication options for your arthritis- including any symptoms you may be having on current medications and your level of pain management. It's important to understand that there is no cure for arthritis, so developing a well-rounded care plan is essential to reduce your symptoms.
Make sure your diet contains plenty of omega-3 fatty acids. This is a good health tip for anyone living with arthritis, or not. Omega-3 fatty acids cannot be produced inside your body but, you need them for optimal survival. Besides being essential for general health, omega-3's have been shown to reduce inflammation in swollen and tender joints. Omega-3's can be found in abundance in foods such as fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, and herring), flax seeds, chia seeds, and walnuts. If you're finding it difficult to obtain your daily dosage of omega-3 (minimum of 1.1-1.6 g.) then taking an omega-3 supplement is highly recommended.
Maintain a healthy weight. According to the John Hopkin's Arthritis Center, weight gain and joint health are deeply correlated. Just being 10 pounds overweight can increase the force on the knee joint by 30-60 pounds with each step. Reducing the amount of force on your joints can therefore greatly reduce the amount of pain from arthritis. Some studies also suggest that maintaining a healthy weight can reduce arthritis pain in the hands and other affected joints. It is thought that excess weight could cause additional forms of arthritis pain in other joints less related to force due to circulatory issues.
Consider getting regular massages, or invest in an at-home massage chair/hand-held device. Speaking of circulatory issues, massage can help relieve arthritis pain and muscle stiffness by improving circulation, helping to reduce inflammation. Although it's still unclear exactly how massage helps arthritis, the benefits are definitely apparent.
Exercise! Living with arthritis pain can make exercise seem counter-intuitive. Movement often hurts- so why would you purposefully do something that could hurt? However, exercise is one of the absolute best things you can do to maximize your health when living with arthritis pain. According to the Mayo Clinic, "exercise is crucial for people with arthritis. It increases strength and flexibility, reduces joint pain, and helps combat fatigue." The idea that exercise will make your joints hurt worse is simply not true- not exercising will actually make your arthritis pain worse and your muscles feel even stiffer. This is because keeping your muscles and surrounding tissue strong is crucial to maintaining support for your bones. Not exercising weakens those supporting muscles, creating more stress on your joints. The best exercise to do when living with arthritis pain is thought to be moderate level activities such as yoga, walking, swimming, light-weight lifting, etc.
Generally, any positive life change like adding in more activity, eating healthy, and striving for a healthy weight are great places to start when trying to live a more full, healthy life when dealing with arthritis. However, when considering adding, changing, or taking away anything to your current arthritis care plan, it is important to discuss with your doctor first to ensure everyone is on the same page. Not only is it possible to maximize your health when dealing with arthritis pain, but it is also essential to your overall wellness!