Living With Osteoarthritis

A senior couple out for a walk.
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It can be difficult to cope with osteoarthritis symptoms that interfere with usual activities of daily living. The best way to cope with physical limitations is to know you are doing everything you can do in terms of pain relief and improving physical function. There are actions that can improve your ability to cope—and to feel better both physically and emotionally.

Emotional

Being diagnosed with, and living with, osteoarthritis can be overwhelming. Taking care of yourself emotionally can help you deal with how you may be feeling about your disease and its impact on your life.

First, and most importantly, understand that some feelings are normal. Fear, anxiety, frustration, and anger are all common and normal feelings when you've been diagnosed with osteoarthritis.

It's OK to allow yourself to feel these things. That said, for your own well-being, do your best not to dwell on them. Life will be different after an osteoarthritis diagnosis, but keeping a positive attitude goes a long way. Try to focus on the things you can do, rather than mulling over the things you can't.

Among some things to try:

  • Enjoy leisure activities: Don't allow pain to rule and define your life. Carve out time for leisure activities you enjoy, whether it is listening to music, reading, playing with your pet, or watching a movie.
  • Don't forget to pamper yourself: Get your hair cut, a pedicure, a massage, a spa treatment—anything that makes you feel better. Make the time and effort to do it.
  • Get away: Sometimes a change your surroundings can help, even if it's just for a day trip. A change of scenery is likely to spark a good mood and relieve stress.
  • Keep a journal: A diary can be a good outlet for venting and for reflecting on the positive aspects of your life.

If feelings of anger or anxiety are so profuse that they are interfering with your daily life, or if you have symptoms of depression, talk to your doctor right away.

Physical

Taking care of your health and your body is incredibly important. Not only will this help you feel better physically, but it will also help you feel empowered and more in control of your osteoarthritis.

Treatment

Recognize the signs and symptoms of osteoarthritis progression, and consult with your doctor if you notice them.

Once you have been diagnosed and have decided on treatment options, be compliant with your treatment plan. Still, assess and periodically re-assess your treatment options with your doctor. Have you considered all medication options? Have you tried injections, non-drug treatments, or alternative treatments?

Let you doctor know what's working for you and what isn't.

Joint Health

Though your joints are feeling the effects of osteoarthritis, you can take steps to improve their health and function:

  • Protect your joints: Do all you can to avoid excess stress and strain on your joints. Consider wearing a support or orthotic. Use assistive devices and adaptive equipment when needed.
  • Keep moving: Don't fall into the sedentary trap. Regular exercise and physical activity will enhance your ability to cope with pain and limitations. Daily range of motion exercises and strengthening exercises should be included in your routine.
  • Eat well: Take a daily multivitamin for better health overall. Including antioxidants in your diet has been touted as being beneficial for osteoarthritis patients.
  • Lose weight: Maintaining a healthy weight will lessen stress on your joints.

Sleep

Getting better sleep will reduce your fatigue, while poor sleep can obviously worsen it (along with your pain). Make your bedroom a good sleep environment and practice good habits that will help you get a full night's rest.

Strike a Balance

While it's very important to stay active, it's equally important to get enough rest.

Social

When you're in pain, the last thing you may feel like doing is going out. But spending time with family and friends is a great mood booster. You might consider sharing details about how your disease affects your ability to participate in certain activities, so loved ones have a greater understanding of what you can and cannot do comfortably, and why.

Surrounding yourself with people who understand first-hand what you are going through has unique benefits as well. You may discover new life hacks for coping with osteoarthritis through them, or simply feel seen and heard because they know exactly how you feel.

Get support wherever you can find it. There are online support groups and local support groups (ask your doctor or hospital for recommendations). The Arthritis Foundation is another great support resource.

Practical

Do what you can do to make life easier for you. Listen to your body and don't push yourself to do more than you're able.

Ask for Help

You won't be able to do everything you did before osteoarthritis, but you should do what you can for as long as you can. When a helping hand is needed, be vocal about what would benefit you most. Others may offer help, but not know exactly what would be useful to you.

Make Adjustments at Work

Arrange your work station or desk so it's most comfortable for you. Take breaks when needed. Consider also requesting a different work schedule, a light-duty position, or a work-from-home option, if possible.

Make Adjustments at Home

Do what you can to make your home more livable. Use products or gadgets that will make tasks easier for you, from lighter-weight cooking implements and electric can openers, to sock aids, easy-to-turn doorknobs, and a chair lift. If you can, splurge on a housekeeper to take over some of the cleaning chores you find difficult.

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Article Sources

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