If you are living with the constant pain of arthritis, it is easy to slip into a negative way of thinking. Arthritis can be debilitating, affecting your day-to-day life in a myriad of different ways. However, the way you think can have a significant effect on your experience of the condition.
The Arthritis Foundation points out that it is essential to break the cycle of chronic pain and negative emotions.
They say that people with depression have a three times greater chance of developing chronic pain compared to those without it. And people with chronic pain are more likely to develop depression.
So, how can you do this and maintain a positive mindset?
Here are our top self-help tips:
1. Get Active
Understandably the pain of arthritis can make people unwilling to exercise. But the less you move around, the more your joints can stiffen up, causing pain levels to worsen. One of the best things you can do for arthritis is to take regular exercise.
Not only will it keep you physically fitter but exercise burns cortisol, which is the chemical released by the body under stress, and it produces endorphins, which are the body’s “happy” chemicals that also help to reduce pain. Start slowly and build up gradually. Walking, swimming or yoga are ideal.
2. Eat Healthily
How often do we hear about the importance of eating a healthy, balanced diet and yet how many of us follow this advice?
If you suffer from arthritis it is important, not only because it will help you to feel better but also because you need to maintain a healthy weight to avoid putting additional stress on your joints.
3. Take Medication
Painkillers and anti-inflammatories can help you to manage the pain of arthritis and make it easier to perform everyday tasks. Some people try and avoid taking them for fear of unpleasant side-effects but, if taken in accordance with your GP’s instructions these medications are safe and will help you to live a more full and active life.
4. Use Mobility Aids
There is a range of mobility aids that can help you but, as with medication, sometimes people with arthritis endeavour to “soldier on” without them. Using a walking stick or walker to help you move around means that you will be able to exercise your joints, which is good for maintaining flexibility and continuing to live an active life.
5. Focus On What You Can Do
Your mindset is an important factor in the way you manage your condition. Accepting that you have arthritis is a crucial first step and will help you to manage your expectations of yourself. It is helpful to visit your GP early on to get a diagnosis and receive treatment to help you to manage your symptoms.
A counsellor or therapist may be able to help you to deal with the psychological impacts of arthritis. These may range from feelings of unfairness and “why me?” through to depression caused by pain or anxiety about the future.
6. Get Informed
As with any kind of health condition, it is helpful if you understand as much about your condition as possible. An orthopaedic specialist will be able to answer your questions, including advising on the most effective way to manage your symptoms and explaining the various types of treatment available to you, which may include medication, pain-killing injections and in some cases surgery.
Don’t be afraid to discuss all of your symptoms, both physical and emotional, and mention any concerns that you have.
At Carrothers Orthopaedics, we specialise in joint replacement surgery for arthritis.
One patient recently commented after surgery:
“Back to weekly sculling, tennis, long walks and gym with no discomfort or inhibition from hips. Clearly a very skilled surgeon, Andrew took the trouble to explain everything very clearly including the risks and potential benefits of a pioneering (for East Anglia) operation. His cheerful manner is a great bonus.”