Oh my aching knees!
According to The Arthritis Society , arthritis is an umbrella term for more than 100 different conditions that range from relatively mild forms of tendinitis and bursitis , to crippling forms such as rheumatoid arthritis . Joint pain is the common denominator for all forms of arthritis, and is often caused by inflammation of the joint lining. While people often tend to think of arthritis as an older person’s disease, in actual fact nearly three of every five people with arthritis are under the age of 65.
It’s not always easy to figure out if the pain you’re experiencing is actually arthritis because according to About Health , early warning signs can be vague and confusing. Watch for:
- joint pain
- joint stiffness
- tenderness in and around the joint
- limited range of motion in one or more joints
- redness and warmth around the affected joint
As with most medical conditions, early detection is important because given that there are more than 100 different varieties of the disease, arthritis is difficult to diagnose, and determining what type you have can take time. There is no cure for most forms of arthritis, so finding out which one you have as soon as possible is critical so you and your doctor can figure out a plan for managing your symptoms.
While there may be no cure for the form of arthritis you have, The Arthritis Society recommends steps you can take to stay as healthy as possible while you live with the disease:
- Eat right and maintain a healthy weight. While food won’t cure you, eating the proper amount and type of foods as recommended by Canada’s Food Guide can give you the energy and nutrients you need to stay as active as possible and lose any extra weight that is putting additional strain on your weight-bearing joints. Check out these recipes that can help combat arthritis, and these joint-friendly meal ideas from WebMD.
- Exercise regularly. You may not feel like it—you’re in pain, after all—but research has shown that a properly designed exercise program may actually decrease your pain and increase your flexibility and overall fitness. It may also help with the stress associated with having a chronic disease. Talk to your doctor about an exercise program that is right for you.
- Watch for signs of depression . It can be very upsetting to hear that you have been diagnosed with arthritis, and it’s perfectly natural to feel down in the dumps every once in a while. But slipping into a depression can actually make your physical pain worse. Combat the blues by staying connected to friends and family, getting exercise, doing something nice for yourself (we all need a little pampering!), or doing something nice for others. If you feel that you’re having more bad days than good, talk to your doctor.
- Get a good night’s sleep. Chronic pain is very tiring, so try to make sure you get some restful, restorative sleep every night. For tips on getting a good night’s sleep visit Helpguide.org.
- Pace yourself. You may not be able to do all the things you used to do as fast or as often as you used to do them. Recognize your limitations and don’t push beyond them. Work at a moderate pace so you can accomplish tasks without draining your energy, and switch between activities often so you don’t strain certain muscle groups and joints. Don’t forget to take regular breaks, even just for a few minutes.
- Use your tools. There are now specially designed tools and devices—everything from fat-handled utensils to dressing aids—that can help you accomplish tasks with less pain and more security and stability. Do an online search for “arthritis aids”, or visit a local store that specializes in home medical equipment. You may be surprised at the vast variety of devices that can help make your life simpler and more comfortable.
Learning to live with arthritis can be difficult, but having as much information about the disease as possible and knowing what you can do to help manage your symptoms can make all the difference.
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