Arthritis symptoms can range from minor soreness to pain so debilitating that it makes walking difficult. There are a lot of interventional, alternative, and medication treatments available for arthritis, but there are also a lot of personal changes that can lessen arthritis symptoms.
Choose healthier foods
A healthier diet can be beneficial in losing weight or maintaining a healthy weight, which can lessen arthritis symptoms. According to the Arthritis Foundation:
“It’s not as commonly known, but obesity in some cases raises the risk of getting a certain type of arthritis; in all cases, obesity makes arthritis worse.”
There are two main reasons for this. The first is simply that extra weight puts extra strain on joints. For example, one pound of weight exerts four pounds of pressure on the knees. Losing just five pounds of extra weight can therefore take 20 pounds of weight off the knees.
Another benefit of eating healthier is that a good diet can reduce inflammation that causes arthritis pain. Body fat can produce hormones and chemicals that encourage inflammation, so losing weight can reduce inflammation. Additionally, the chemical processes that take place when the body breaks down certain foods releases pro-inflammatory compounds.
Foods that encourage inflammation include:
- Saturated fats, which are present in fatty meats, full-fat dairy products, and palm kernel oil
- Trans fats, which are a preservative and are now required to be listed among an item’s ingredients
- Refined carbohydrates, such as sugary foods, white flour, and white rice
There are also several foods that can reduce inflammation, such as:
- Omege-3 fatty acids, which are found in fish, chia and flax seeds, and seaweed
- Extra virgin olive oil, which contains a powerful anti-inflammatory compound called oleocanthol
- Antioxidants, found in abundance in fresh fruits and vegetables (especially richly-colored ones)
- Vitamin D, which is present in fish, egg yolks, or over-the-counter supplements
- Spices, especially ginger and turmeric
Take up some low-impact exercise
Exercise might speed along weight loss. In addition to this, however, building stronger muscles around affected joints can actually help support the joint. Gentle exercises like walking, biking, swimming, or stretching can build muscle and burn calories without doing further damage to joints.
A physician, physical or occupational therapist, chiropractor, or other medical professional might be able to suggest safe, effective activities. Additionally, the Arthritis Foundation sells a DVD of at-home activities and has an Exercise Program specifically geared toward people with arthritis, with a searchable database of local classes.
Use assistive devices
When most people hear the words “assistive devices,” they think of a cane or walker. These devices can certainly help. A cane can take some of the weight off a painful knee or hip. A walker does this, as well as providing some extra balance to reduce the chance of a fall. Some walkers also have a built-in bag to carry things or a seat to allow users to rest. However, walkers and canes aren’t the only assistive devices available to help with arthritis pain.
Good orthotic shoes or inserts can provide stability and act as shock-absorbers. Reachers, or long rods with a pincher on the end, can help pick up small items on the floor without bending over. Elevated chair legs or thick cushions can raise the level of a seat and make it easier to stand up again. Touch lamps eliminate the need to twist a knob or push a button. Electric can openers and two-handled pots and pans can make cooking easier. Large buttons, zipper pulls, and sock aids can lessen pain while dressing.
The bathroom can also be fitted with several assistive devices. A raised toilet seat with side rails can make sitting and standing much easier. A larger electric toothbrush is easier to grip than a narrow toothbrush. A seat or transfer bench can remove the need to stand during showers. Instead of standing in front of or leaning toward the bathroom mirror, a free-standing mirror on the counter with a chair in front of it can make shaving or doing makeup much easier.
Getting up and moving around every 20 to 30 minutes can keep joints loose and prevent stiffness. Flex the hands often to prevent soreness or stiffness. Computer monitors should be positioned so it’s not necessary to keep the neck bent.
Additionally, having a good office chair is key. A good office chair should be height-adjustable so the feet rest flat on the floor, and lumbar support is a must. Many newer office chairs are ergonomic with built-in lumbar support, but older ones might require some modification. A small pillow, rolled up towel, or insert can sometimes do the trick. Adjusting the chair’s arms and using a cushioned arm rest may also be beneficial. Some companies have an on-staff consultant who can suggest office space adjustments and provide assistive devices, so consider asking around at work.
How have you lessened your arthritis pain?
Image by Leo Hidalgo via Flickr