10 Commandments for Living Well With Arthritis

What You Can Do to Have Good Quality of Life With Arthritis

Paul Bradbury/Getty Images

Arthritis is a chronic disease. Simply put, there is no cure for most types of arthritis. You can expect to have the disease for the rest of your life. Learning how to best manage arthritis is essential.

When first diagnosed, people with arthritis often feel discouraged and wonder how they can possibly live with pain every day. Fact is, it takes time to find the best combination of medications, treatments, and lifestyle modifications that will allow you to cope with pain and live well with arthritis. The best combination is not exactly the same for every person with arthritis. But, there are 10 things every arthritis patient should do to ensure they are living their best possible life despite having arthritis. I call these the 10 Commandments for Living Well With Arthritis.    

1 - Pay Attention to Early Symptoms or Increasing Symptoms

When you experience the first symptoms of arthritis, you will just want to wish it away. But, you should not delay having your symptoms evaluated by a doctor. Permanent joint damage may be the consequence of waiting too long to see a doctor or going without treatment.  Early treatment offers the best chance for slowing disease progression. Even if you are not new to arthritis and have had the disease for some time, pay attention to worsening symptoms which may indicate that a treatment change should be considered.

2 - Have a Doctor-Patient Relationship You Can Rely On

I don't really know anyone who enjoys going to the doctor. Yet, if you have a chronic disease, such as arthritis, your relationship with your doctor is very important. It is as important as any other relationship you have because your well-being depends on it. You must be able to rely on your doctor, communicate with your doctor, and trust their guidance and advice.

3 - Be a Compliant Patient

While it is important for you to trust your doctor's advice and recommendations, your doctor must be able to trust that you will be compliant with the treatment plan. Skipping your medications, canceling appointments without rescheduling, or withholding important information from your doctor are not options. You must be a compliant patient. There can be no shortcuts or non-disclosure. 

4 - Pay Attention to Your Diet

It is a physical challenge to live with chronic pain. Increased fatigue and energy depletion are among the consequences. You should eat a healthful diet to give your body every advantage and restore your energy. Consider reducing pro-inflammatory foods and including anti-inflammatory foods in your diet. Avoid foods that you suspect trigger flares.

5 - Maintain Your Ideal Weight

Carrying excess weight burdens the joints. The added stress on joints can increase pain. To maintain your ideal weight, watch your calorie intake. If you are overweight or obese, cut daily calories by 500 to lose weight. You should participate in regular physical activity to burn calories as well. It is a common misconception among people with arthritis that they can't do enough to affect their weight. Even small changes are significant. Researchers have determined that for each pound lost, there is a 4-fold reduction in loading forces on your knee as you take a step.

6 - Exercise Regularly

Several years ago, a national survey revealed that over one-third of arthritis patients get no exercise. Many of those people perceive exercise as something they just can't do. Many people also believe that exercise will exacerbate their arthritis symptoms. In reality, exercise helps maintain joint function, bone strength, and muscle strength. Exercise improves sleep and mood. It also helps with weight management. Any movement is better than no movement. Set realistic goals and build on those goals at a pace that is appropriate for you.

7 - Get Sufficient Rest and Sleep

While you are encouraged to exercise regularly and to keep moving, you should realize that rest is necessary, too. Resting a painful joint can relieve pain. Your body requires periods of rest in order to recuperate. Prolonged periods of rest can work against you, though, and can actually promote pain and weakness. Just as overdoing activity can increase pain and worsen symptoms, too much rest can have the same effect. Strive for a balance between rest and activity. Also, be aware of good sleep habits. Achieving a pattern of sufficient, uninterrupted sleep each night is another important goal.

8 - Don't Feel Sorry for Yourself

No one would blame you for feeling sorry for yourself once in a while. We all do it on occasion for reasons other than having a chronic disease. But, self-pity must be short-lived and not be allowed to become a way of life. It will not serve you well to dwell on "why me" or "I can't". Realize that every person is faced with challenges, and this is yours. If you find yourself stuck in self-pity mode for too long, make adjustments or consider asking for help. 

9 - Improve Your Environment at Home and Work

It is important for you to make your environment at home and work accessible and comfortable. This may seem obvious, yet it is often overlooked. Simple changes, such as swapping out a chair for one that makes it easier to go from sitting to stand, organizing shelves to keep frequently used items easy to reach, getting a supportive mattress, or purchasing other ergonomic equipment or assistive devices, can make a big difference. Adjustments and adaptations to your environment may help protect your joints and help reduce pain.   

10 - Reinforce Your Positive Attitude

A positive attitude can carry you through your most difficult times. Do what you can to minimize stress and to avoid negativity. Discover what promotes positivity for you. It will not be the same for everyone. It may be church, music, nature, or something else entirely. When you discover what fuels your positivity, make sure you get enough of it. Cling to those experiences.

Was this page helpful?
Article Sources
  • Weight loss reduces knee-joint loads in overweight and obese older adults with knee osteoarthritis. Arthritis and Rheumatism. July 2005. Messier et al.