Arthritis doesn’t just affect your body—it can disrupt your life. The pain and discomfort can be so debilitating that you can’t get around, enjoy your favorite hobbies, or work as efficiently. However, there are ways to manage arthritis so you can still enjoy quality of life. Here are simple tips and habits that have helped millions of people who have arthritis to regain control over their body, and their lifestyle.
1. Keep good posture
Your posture affects the stress you put on your spine and your joints. The trick is to distribute your weight. When you stand, keep your feet at least 12 inches apart, and completely parallel to each other. Then, draw back your shoulders, so your chest lifts and broadens. This not only prevents arthritis pain, it also makes you look taller and your belly smaller! Over the day, you may catch yourself drooping your shoulders as you walk. Correct your posture immediately. Imagine that you have a string at the top of your head, and ‘pull’ yourself up.
2. Manage your weight.
Each time you walk, your knees and hips carry pressure equivalent to three times your body weight. So if you weigh just 150 pounds, your joints must ‘lift’ the equivalent of 450 pounds. This can be extremely exhausting and painful if your joints are weakened by arthritis. That’s why it’s important to stay within a healthy weight range. If necessary, go on a diet and sign up for an exercise program. Start by ask your doctor which of your joints are affected, and what type of routines are safe for you.
Exercise has other benefits, too. It can improve your muscle strength and flexibility, which will make you feel stronger and help minimize the feeling of stiffness and lethargy. The endorphin rush will also boost your mood and over-all sense of well-being.
3. Wear good shoes.
Your shoes should provide the right support to your heel and ankle, and cushion your weight. So buy the right pair, and then check the ones you already own for signs of wear and tear. To do this, place shoes at eye level (like on a table at a counter) and see if the heels tend to lean inward or outward. Replace the soles or throw out the shoes if necessary. This is especially important for athletic shoes or anything that you tend to wear everyday, while running errands or doing any kind of extensive physical activity.
And it’s best to give away your high heels altogether. Research shows that any heel above two inches (even if they’re thick and supposedly give ‘even support’) increases the torque or twisting force at the knee. This strains the joint that’s found at the back of the kneecap, causing and aggravating osteoarthritis.
4. Shift your perspective.
This is ne of the most powerful decisions you can ever make. Don’t dwell on what arthritis has ‘taken away’ from you. Don’t build your life around the pain. Instead, decide to focus on wellness—what you can still do, what you can enjoy, and how you can strengthen your body, mind and spirit so you can create a full, happy life.
For example, don’t say ‘I hate the way arthritis slows me down! It takes me longer to finish things.’ Instead, see it as a chance to delegate activities that you don’t enjoy and to really focus on what matters to you. Then you can say, ‘I do less things, but I appreciate them more or feel more fulfilled at the end of the day.’
It also helps to stay around positive people, read inspiring books, and cultivate a sense of humor. Laughter is powerful medicine against pain! When discomfort strikes, call up a friend and chat about a favorite hobby, or watch your favorite comedy series on DVD. The pain is still there, but it no longer occupies your thoughts.
5. Be realistic about what you need and honest about what you want.
Know your body and respect its needs. Don’t push yourself into doing a lot every day; give yourself time to rest and allow more time to finish things. You won’t get frustrated because you couldn’t meet a schedule that was impossible to begin with.
Also, tell people what you need! They’re usually eager to help but don’t know how. Be specific. Instead of grumbling, ‘No one ever cleans the house except me,’ say, ‘I need someone else to be in charge of vacuuming.’
You can also look for ways to make tasks and chores easier. There are a lot of convenient appliances and equpment that make it easier to cook, clean and garden. Let technology do the work for you!
6. Pay attention to what works.
Monitor your arthritis pain, measuring its intensity on a scale of 1 to 10. Pay attention to what works for you. Ever case is different so only you will know what lifestyle changes really made an impact. That way, you can discard what’s not useful and then create a pain management routine that’s truly personal and effective.
One way to do this is to keep what some people call a ‘pain diary.’ Write down what you did that day, and your level of pain at different times. Also record any homeopathic or alternative therapies that you tried that day. Some of these make take days or weeks to take effect, so be patient—but stay observant. Look at how your well-being improves over time.
7. Get better sleep
Sleep is your body’s way of healing itself at the end of the day. It restores your energy reserves and helps reduce any pain and swelling of the joints from the day’s activities. You should get from 7 to 9 hours of sleep at night. If you suffer from insomnia, or have trouble getting deep, restful sleep, talk to your doctor or look for natural ways to get better sleep.