Although doctors can recommend and prescribe treatments for osteoarthritis, the real key to managing the disease is you. Studies show that people with osteoarthritis who take an active role in their own care report less pain and need fewer visits to the doctor. The following are five key things you can do to actively manage your disease.
1. Educate Yourself
If you have received an osteoarthritis diagnosis, it pays to learn as much about the disease as you can. The best way to do this is to participate in an arthritis self management program (ASMP), patient education program or arthritis support group. These programs teach people about available treatments, self help therapies, suitable exercises and problem solving. A typical ASMP educational event involves a 2 hour workshop, once a week over a period of 6 weeks. Workshops are given in community centers such as churches, libraries or hospitals. Patients who participate in these groups, according to research, are more likely to have a better quality of life.
To locate a program near you, visit the Arthritis Foundation website and www.arthritis.org and use the Find A Local Office search tool.
2. Stay Active
Regular physical activity plays a key role in your self-care. Four types of exercise are important for osteoarthritis. The first is strengthening to keep muscles strong. The second is aerobic conditioning to keep your heart in good order and to control your weight. The third is range of motion exercises to reduce stiffening and maintain joint flexibility. The fourth type is balance and agility exercises to help maintain daily living skills. While all osteoarthritis exercise programs include all four types of exercises, there is no one type of specific plan that suits all. You will need to do different exercises according to which joints are affected (although walking, swimming and water aerobics are good overall exercises for most osteoarthritis patients). A physical therapist or physiatrist will help you put a suitable plan together. It is important to seek professional care in this instance because exercising incorrectly could cause more harm than good. Be sure to ask if you should use a painkiller to make exercising easier and if you should apply ice to a sore joint after working out.
Knees And Exercise
Researchers who have looked into the benefits of exercise for those with knee osteoarthritis discovered:
• Walking can improve the function of the knee - the more you walk, the farther you will be able to walk.
• Those who are active in an exercise program feel less pain. Their knee also functions better.
• See also, what type of doctor treats osteoarthritis?
3. Eat Healthy
No specific diet will help improve symptoms of osteoarthritis but eating right will help keep your weight at a healthy level and prevent colds, flus and other more serious illnesses. That said, some studies show taking 1500mg daily of a supplement called glucosamine sulphate can greatly reduce pain and increase mobility associated with osteoarthritis. When symptoms improve the dosage can be reduced to 500mg a day. Glucosamine sulphate is usually derived from crab shells, so you should avoid it if you are allergic to shellfish. There is also some research that suggests taking a high dose (higher than the daily recommended allowance) of vitamins D, C, or E, or beta carotene may slow down the progression of the disease. And finally, one study showed that drinking green tea may slow down the breakdown of cartilage associated with osteoarthritis. It should be mentioned that none of these alternative remedies have been proven conclusively to have beneficial effects.
4. Sleep Lots
A regular good night's sleep can minimize pain and help you cope with your disease more easily. Fatigue makes pain feel worse, it slows our reflexes and increases the risk of injury. If your pain makes it difficult to sleep, ask your doctor for advice. For example, some antidepressants can help relieve pain and induce sleep. Alternatively check your sleeping position. Unless you have back pain, it is usually better to sleep on your back. Talk to a physical therapist about buying a suitable bed mattress. Ideally it should be firm but not hard, a mattress topper can also help you achieve this. Place a pillow under a sore joint to support it (if your knee is sore for example, place a pillow under it). If your joint is aching before bed, apply ice to it. Cold therapy seems to work better at the end of the day.
5. Stay Positive And Have Fun
Perhaps the most important thing you can do is to stay positive and keep having fun. You need to DECIDE to make the most of life, and to keep this attitude, even when your joints are aching. Maintaining a good attitude takes effort, you need to remind yourself and adjust your mind set regularly to stay on track. If you have problems carrying out daily tasks or hobbies that you love, ask an occupational therapist to help you find new ways of doing them. In many cases, there is a work around.
Hope For The Future
A balanced approach between doctor and patient-self management care is the best way to staying healthy with osteoarthritis. People with the disease should combine exercise, education, physical therapy, social support and medications in an overall treatment plan. In the meantime, as scientists learn more about the disease new treatments will be available in the foreseeable future. Such developments will further improve the quality of life of osteoarthritis patients and their families.