Arthritis is the inflammation of joints and it is characterized by joint pain and stiffness that worsens with age. Depending on the severity, it can really alter some people’s ability to function or to do the things in life that they enjoy. There are two main types of arthritis. Osteoarthritis is the one that people are most familiar with; it is due to the wear and tear to the joints’ cartilage and can occur as people get older or may be the result of a joint injury. Rheumatoid Arthritis is an autoimmune disorder where the body attacks itself; it is more common in women and can occur at any age.
After recovering from a knee injury ten years ago, I have begun to suffer from arthritis in this joint. It is not severe enough to require surgery or regular medication, but it does keep me from being as active as I would like. My doctor had warned me that this might occur in the future if I did not comply with physical therapy, but even after going to regular treatments to heal the initial injury, I still have to be very careful with my knee. In this article I will talk about what has helped me be able to cope and continue to enjoy my life.
Let your body be your guide
Your body will let you know what activities are too strenuous. Just because you deal with arthritis does not mean you cannot continue to be active. As a matter of fact, regular exercise will help alleviate some of your symptoms by keeping your joints flexible. You may have to adjust your activities a little. I love to hike and this is a great physical activity. I have learned that walking on slopes or at a quick pace is just as good of an exercise as running, without the additional strain on my knee. I also love to dance, but this can sometimes aggravate my symptoms. I know that if I overdo it one day, I will need to spend the next day recuperating. I am okay with that, it is the trade-off for continuing to do something I love.
There are also certain exercises that are beneficial to arthritis. I am a member of the YMCA where they offer water aerobics. This is an excellent workout, where your body works against the resistance of the water while protecting your joints. Yoga and Tai Chi also help increase joint flexibility. On days when my knee is bothering me from over activity, I will do range of motion exercises from physical therapy. This is a great way to strengthen the muscles around the joint and help protect the afflicted area. You can search for range of motion exercises on the internet or ask your physician to suggest some for your specific needs.
If your case is not too severe, most of your treatment can come from lifestyle management. Weight loss can be very helpful to take added stress off of joints. On days where my knee is really bothering me, a brace seems to help. Good supportive tennis shoes help lessen the impact on my knee. I also alternate ice and heat. If the joint is swollen or inflamed then you will want to use an ice pad and elevate the joint with a pillow. Hot baths or heating pads can also bring great relief from stiff, achy joints.
Medications and Supplements
There are multiple medications for arthritis, but many come with their own side effects so I would only take them as needed. I have been lucky enough to only have to use ibuprofen to reduce inflammation and help with pain management. There are stronger NSAIDS and steroids available with a prescription. You will want to weigh the benefits and risks with your doctor. While there is some debate, I have found Glucosamine and Chondroitin to be beneficial. This is a supplement that can be found at most drug stores and is believed to help lubricate joints and strengthen cartilage. If you are allergic to shellfish, make sure that you talk to your doctor before beginning this supplement.
As with anything you have to see what works best for you and your body. These are the treatments that have helped me to continue to live my life the way that I want. Each person’s body is different. The most important thing is to be able to enjoy a quality of life, and minimize pain and discomfort as much as possible, without compounding your disorder with additional side effects.
Mayo Clinic, “Arthritis”, http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/arthritis/basics/definition/con-20034095