May is Arthritis Awareness Month and a good time to learn about pain management skills to ease joint discomfort and promote wellness.
What is Arthritis?
Arthritis is a degenerative condition characterized by joint inflammation. There are two types of arthritis: osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Osteoarthritis occurs as the cartilage between your joints wears out, resulting in bone-on-bone friction and damage. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease in which your immune system mistakenly attacks healthy joint tissue.
Emotional and Physical Effects of Arthritis
There is no cure for arthritis, but not addressing your condition may cause it to progress and increase joint damage. Physical effects include joint pain and swelling, fever and joint weakness. Rheumatoid arthritis also impacts other areas of the body, causing numbness, red and bumpy skin, dry mouth and difficulty breathing.
Those effects may cause emotional distress. Facing the prospect of coping with a lifelong health condition can be stressful and result in fatigue, anxiety and depression.
Maintain a Healthy Weight with a Balanced Diet
An effective way to manage your joint pain is to stick to a healthy diet. Eating well will help you maintain an appropriate weight and ease the stress on your joints, especially if you have osteoarthritis. Reducing body weight also improves mobility and prevents further joint damage.
A plant-based diet will provide your body with antioxidants to reduce joint inflammation and combat free radicals that aggravate arthritis.
Here are some arthritis-friendly foods to include in your diet:
- Fatty fish
- Olive oil
Exercise to Ease Arthritis
Physical activity eases joint discomfort. Exercise improves mobility by strengthening the muscles that support your joints and lubricating the cartilage between your bones.
It’s important to consult your doctor before you start a new exercise regimen, and remember to stay SMART:
- Start slow.
- Modify activities as needed.
- Activities should be joint-friendly.
- Recognize safety risks.
- Talk to your doctor.
Low-impact exercises will reduce the risk of injury and joint damage. Try moderate aerobic exercises like walking, stationary cycling, yoga and dancing. Activities like swimming and water aerobics are excellent for arthritis pain since being in the water alleviates the pressure on your joints.
Try Hot and Cold Therapy
When used correctly, hot and cold compresses can ease joint pain, swelling and inflammation. Taking a hot bath or shower in the morning is a simple way to loosen stiff joints once you get out of bed. If you experience increased pain while lying in bed, cover your affected joints with a heated blanket or hot water bottle.
Cold compresses are good for reducing swelling and inflammation. Wrap a cold gel compress or a bag of frozen vegetables in a towel before applying it to your arthritic joint.
It’s important to note that you should never directly apply a hot or cold compress to your skin. It’s best to apply compresses for 15 to 20 minutes, allowing your skin to return to its normal temperature in between sessions.
Consider Massage Therapy or Acupuncture
Massage therapy does not directly affect arthritis, but it eases the tension in the muscles that support your joints. It’s also an effective strategy to address the emotional stress that can accompany arthritis pain management.
The exact way in which acupuncture eases arthritis pain is still unclear. Some research suggests acupuncture helps your body release steroids, which reduce the inflammation in your joints. Do your research and only receive treatment from a licensed and certified acupuncturist. SavaSeniorCare offers rehabilitation services to help you manage your arthritis pain. Contact us to learn more about our levels of care.