Living with arthritis means learning how to manage the symptoms and maximize mobility, and, for some types of arthritis, slowing down the progression of the disease with medications.
First, see your doctor if you haven’t already. Pain relievers and anti-inflammatory medications can make it easier for you to move around, and can relieve joint stiffness. It’s important not to get discouraged if the medications don’t seem to be working right away, since some medications may take several weeks to reach their full effect. What helps one person may not help another; you may need to try different medications at various dosages before you find adequate relief.
It’s understandable to feel frustrated or down when you can’t do things you once could – whether it’s taking long hikes in the woods or doing fine needlework. But to stay healthy in body, mind and spirit, we need to adapt. Take shorter routes if you used to enjoy long walks, or take part in a “mall walk” sponsored by your local shopping centre. If it’s getting too difficult to do your favourite hobby, maybe you can learn a similar one that puts less stress on your joints, or use adaptive aids to help you continue doing the one you love. Occupational therapists are a great resource for handy devices that might make it easier for you to continue enjoying your activities.
It’s important to exercise! Exercise helps arthritis by improving joint movement and strengthening the muscles that surround the joints. Swimming and walking are great exercises with low impact on the joints when done in moderation. This will keep your muscles active without increasing inflammation or joint pain. Swimming is particularly good since the water helps support the weight of your body, taking the strain off of the joints. Call your local community centre to see what special exercise activities they have to offer. Check with your doctor or physiotherapist before starting a new exercise program.
Staying active, physically and mentally, is important to maintain good health. For example, participating regularly in swimming and exercise programs can help you get out of the house and maintain social contacts. Ask your doctor or physiotherapist for ideas.
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