Chances are, if you’re of a certain age, you’ve dealt with osteoarthritis in at least one part of your body. Whether it’s in your hands, hips, knees or spine, osteoarthritis can be painful, and in severe cases can prevent you from being able to perform daily tasks, such as put on shoes, step into the bathtub, or even walk. The good news? There are measures you can take that, while they won’t reverse the effects of the disease, can help you manage pain and keep you living your life to the fullest.
It may sound counterintuitive, but exercising can actually help reduce joint and stiffness and increase flexibility, muscle strength and endurance. While people with osteoarthritis should stay away from high-impact activities such as running or jumping, there are plenty of other options: walking, cycling, swimming, tai chi and water aerobics. Exercising utilizing weights or exercise bands, as well as performing range-of-motion and stretching activities can also help support joints affected by arthritis and keep them limber. When exercising, or, really, any time you’re moving around, it could be helpful to use a brace or orthotics prescribed by your doctor to stabilize a joint.
If you are struggling with arthritis of weight-bearing joints such as the knees or hips, losing weight can help with your pain, especially if you are overweight. Managing your weight can help reduce stress on joints, prevent further injury and increase mobility.
There are several options when it comes to medicating for osteoarthritis. Noninvasive options include oral pain relievers, oral anti-inflammatory medications and topical creams or rubs. If those don’t do the trick, some doctors will recommend corticosteroids (a common type is cortisone), which are inflammation-fighting drugs that are injected into the joint to temporarily relieve pain. Another option are Hyaluronic acid substitutes, which are also injected into the joint (typically the knee) to increase lubrication.
Many sufferers of osteoarthritis have reported that they have been able to manage their osteoarthritis pain through other remedies such as acupuncture (which stimulates nerves, muscles and connective tissue to improve blood flow), massage, and transcutaneous electrical stimulation (more commonly known as TENS, this treatment involves small electrodes being placed on a joint for electrical stimulation).
While it’s important to stay moving, there is also value in knowing when to take it easy. If you go for a long walk one day, consider icing a joint later that evening, and taking the next day to rest.