May 1, 2023
What is Arthritis?
Arthritis means joint inflammation; it is a term used for conditions that cause joint pain, stiffness and swelling. About one in four adults in the United States has been diagnosed with arthritis by a physician. There are several types of arthritis, but the two most common are:
- Osteoarthritis (OA) – In joints with OA, the protective cartilage between bones wears away. This allows the bones to rub together, which can cause pain and stiffness.
- Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) – An autoimmune inflammatory disease in which the body’s immune system attacks its own joint tissue.
Living with arthritis is not easy, and performing simple, everyday tasks can be difficult and painful. However, there are many things you can do to live a healthy lifestyle with arthritis.
It is very important to eat a well-balanced diet if you have arthritis. Eating healthily will give you all the necessary nutrients to maintain a healthy weight. Your diet should consist of a variety of foods from all food groups:
- Fresh fruits and vegetables
- Carbohydrates like whole wheat breads and pastas, rice, quinoa and potatoes
- Lean proteins such as fish, chicken, turkey and eggs
- Low-fat dairy like Greek yogurt, milk and Kiefer
- Healthy fats such as olive oil, coconut oils and avocados
- Drink water. This not a food group, but staying hydrated with help lubricate your joints
If you struggle with excess weight, this places excess pressure on the joints leading to increased pain and mobility problems.
If your arthritis is painful, you may not feel like exercising. However, being active can help reduce and prevent overall pain. Regular exercise can also:
- Improve your joint mobility and movement
- Increase muscle strength which will help protect your joints
- Reduce stiffness allowing more mobility
- Boost your energy
- Improve your sleep
As long as you focus on the correct type of exercise based on your condition, your overall joint pain should not increase. Your physician and physical therapist can create a specific plan to put limited strain on your joints, allowing the full benefits of an exercise program.
Joint care is extremely important for those suffering from arthritis. Protecting your joints will avoid further damage to the joints. To help protect your joints while carrying out everyday tasks, think of implementing the following:
- Use larger, stronger joints as levers. For example, take the pressure of opening a heavy door off your hand and push it open with your shoulder.
- Use several joints to spread the weight of an object you are carrying. For example, use both hands to carry your shopping bags, or use bags with a long handle to carry on your shoulder.
- Don’t grip too tightly, or us a padded handle to widen your grip.
- Avoid sitting in the same position for long periods; take regular breaks to move your joints.
Carrying out everyday tasks at home can be challenging with suffering from arthritis. Making some practical changes in your home could make those tasks easier for you. Some practical tips that may help:
- Keep items within your reach.
- Use a handrail when going up and down the stairs.
- Use long-handled tools to pick things up or assist with cleaning.
- Use small appliances in the kitchen to help with meal prep, such as an electric can opener or electric whisk.
A licensed occupational therapist can help advise you on equipment or set up your home to allow you to live independently and as pain-free as possible while carrying out everyday tasks.