Did you know that arthritis is one of the most widespread health conditions in the United Sates? Over 54 million men and women have arthritis - that’s one in four adults. Chances are that you or your loved one know someone or are suffering from the pain and aches of arthritis yourself. Arthritis is the inflammation or stiffness of one or more joints, causing pain and stiffness that can gradually gets worse as you age.
There are more than 100 different types of arthritis and related diseases. The most common forms are Osteoarthritis (OA), rheumatoid arthritis (RA), psoriatic arthritis (PsA) and fibromyalgia and gout. Each of them causes pain in a different way.
Osteoarthritis: Also known as the “wear and tear” that happens when your joints are overused.
Rheumatoid Arthritis: An autoimmune disease that attacks parts of the body, especially the joints. As a result, most people get lumps on their skin.
Psoriatic Arthritis: Inflammation of the skin and joints. People tend to have patchy, raised, red and white areas of inflamed skin with scales.
Gout: A buildup of uric acid crystal in a join, often found in people’s big toe or part of their foot. People usually wake up with a sudden, sharp pain in their big toe due to drinking, stress or drugs.
Fibromyalgia: Considered a central pain syndrome, which means the brain and spinal cord process pain signals differently. People often have widespread pain and it comes and goes.
How can you manage the pain and stiffness related to these diseases? Here are five tips that can help manage your arthritis and ease the pain.
- Keep your body moving. Do daily, gentle stretches that move your joints through their full range of motion. Walking has also been proven to help improve arthritis pain, fatigue and quality of life. Whether it’s walking, dancing or swimming that you enjoy, find a way to keep yourself moving.
- Maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight can worsen your arthritis diagnosis. Try to manage your weight by eating healthier meals such as fruit and whole grains and doing light exercise. You can talk with your doctor to find out what the best option is for you.
- Be mindful of your feelings. It can be discouraging to wake up every morning with pain, and that can lead to a negative attitude. Pay attention to your emotions and find ways to relax your mind such as meditating, deep breathing, listening to music or writing in a journal. Massage therapy may also help you release any tensions you are feeling, just let your massage therapist know where your arthritis affects you.
- Apply heat and cold. Using heat, such as a placing a heating pad on your aching joints, taking a hot bath or shower can help relieve pain temporarily. The use of cold, like ice packs to sore muscles can also relive pain and inflammation.
- Get enough sleep. Studies have shown that keeping on a regular sleep schedule can help decrease inflammation and keep you more alert. Try staying on a regular sleep schedule, avoid caffeine before bedtime and turn off electronic devices at leas an hour before bed.
If you or your loved one is living with arthritis everyday it can be hard not to focus on the pain, but with a few simple lifestyle changes you can manage it. It’s important to remember that not every lifestyle change will work for everyone. Find the one that best fits your lifestyle to help you live a life with less pain and stiffness.