Around 350 million people worldwide suffer from arthritis. In the United States alone, almost 40 million people have arthritis, making it a common ailment. However, knowing you're in good company doesn't make the daily realities of living with joint pain any easier to deal with. The good news is there are several ways to manage arthritis and the associated aches and pains. Keep reading to find ways to help manage arthritis:
If you experience joint pain, the last thing you may want to do is exercise. However, gentle movement and stretching can help reduce symptoms of arthritis, making fitness vital to improving your health. When exploring fitness options, focus on finding routines that activate the muscles surrounding your joints, such as stretching and strength training. If you're just beginning with strength training, take it slow and increase weight or resistance movements over time. Speak to a physical therapist to make sure you stay safe while undertaking a new fitness regimen. Walking, water aerobics and gentle cycling are all good options for those with arthritis looking to improve flexibility, range of motion and strength.
On the flip side, avoid rigorous activities that could worsen your condition. Stay away from high-impact exercises including running, jumping and straining muscles and joints through repetitive actions such as pitching or serving a volleyball.
"So if you're overweight or could stand to lose even five or 10 pounds, now is the time to do so."
Fitness can help you improve joint mobility and overall quality of life – it can also help you manage your weight, another essential way to handle arthritis pain. The Arthritis Foundation reports that weight loss reduces the pressure on your joints – in fact, a study in Arthritis & Rheumatism found losing 10 pounds of weight resulted in a reduction equivalent to 40 pounds of knee pressure.
If you have arthritis, you probably already know that your joints are under pressure – you feel it every day in the form of aches, pains and reduced mobility. So if you're overweight or could stand to lose even five or 10 pounds, now is the time to do so. Focus on a combination of gentle exercise and a healthier diet centered around lean proteins and increased vegetable intake designed to shed a few pounds and reduce arthritic strain.
Hunching over a computer each day, or simply standing with your shoulders rolled instead of standing tall, can add pressure to your joints and worsen arthritis symptoms. The human head weighs about 10 pounds – that's a lot of pressure on your neck each day. When you have your head jutting forward in front of your neck, that creates even more strain.
Think of it this way – it's easier to hold a bowling ball close to your chest than it is to hold it outstretched. When you hold the ball at an angle in front of you, you're relying on your forearms to hold the weight, rather than using your core, upper arms and chest to help support the ball when you keep it closer to your body.
The same goes for your posture – when your head rests directly above your neck, you'll gain support from the rest of your spine, giving your neck joints and muscles a break. Try out gentle exercises to improve posture over time. For example, stand with your back (from neck to lower back) flat against a wall for two minutes at a time to strengthen the muscles throughout your back. You may be surprised to find how difficult it is if your posture has taken a slide over the years.
"Capsaicin cream and other topical ointments also help."
Speak to your doctor about your symptoms, and consider taking medication to give your joints some relief. Over-the-counter medications such as acetaminophen, naproxen sodium or ibuprofen can help ease the discomfort associated with arthritis.
Capsaicin cream and other topical ointments also help. Consult with your doctor to discuss your options and to make sure over-the-counter remedies won't interfere with any other medications you might be taking.
Heat and cold therapy
Use alternating heat and cold therapy to decrease joint pain. A hot shower in the morning or evening can provide you with some comfort, as can heat therapy using a pad. Keep in mind that you shouldn't use a heating pad for more than 20 minutes at a time.
You can also treat sore joints with a cold compress or ice pack. The cold can give aching joints a reprieve, making this form of therapy an easy way to help yourself at home. Use ice packs after exercise or on days when you've spent long periods of time on your feet.
Try thinking of heat and cold therapy as a way to relax, instead of as a chore. A hot shower at night or cooling down after a workout with the help of an ice pack are both small things that can make life with arthritis more manageable. By combining the tips above, and with the help of a doctor, you can improve your quality of life for years to come.