If you suffer from a debilitating condition like arthritis you don’t need us to tell you that it can have a significant impact on your mental health.
Anxiety and depression
According to the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control, one in five US adults with arthritis has symptoms of anxiety or depression – that’s around 10 million people. In the UK, a 2017 study published in the 20 March issue of Rheumatology and Therapy, found that around 30% of people who are diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis develop depression within five years. A separate study, published in the British Journal of General Practice the same year, found anxiety rates of 20% among people with the condition. Its researchers found an even higher rate of depression (39%).
Impact of Covid
Orthopaedic surgeons have long been aware of the mental health challenges suffered by people with conditions like arthritis, which can cause severe pain and loss of mobility. However, the pandemic has exacerbated the situation for many people, as a result of repeated lockdowns, cancelled appointments and postponed surgical procedures, not to mention the distress of being unable to see family and friends or socialise.
University of East Anglia study
We are already starting to see the impact of some of this on patients with orthopaedic conditions. Researchers from the University of East Anglia have been carrying out online surveys every four weeks among patients with inflammatory arthritis. Although the final results aren’t yet available, it recently published an interim report based on information gathered between April 28 and May 27 last year.
This shows that fatigue is a big problem, with 42% of respondents saying their energy levels have gone down. This is understandable as a consequence of increased stress levels and lack of physical activity, as well as the pressures of lockdown. More than a third (35%) said that symptoms like pain and stiffness had increased and the researchers called on health care providers to consider providing additional support for people with inflammatory arthritis during the pandemic. Many respondents report feeling isolated and bored while others cite anxiety and worry about how they will be able to safely re-enter society.
Maintaining good orthopaedic health during lockdown
It is concerning that people who are already vulnerable are experiencing increased symptoms and mental health challenges due to the pandemic. In our blog Maintaining Good Orthopaedic Health During Lockdown we offered some practical advice to people with existing conditions.
Support for mental health
In addition, here are some things that you can do to look after your mental health during these unprecedented times:
- Limit your exposure to the news – this is particularly important if you are prone to anxiety. Try just sticking to one news source or keeping an eye on the Government’s Covid-19 website rather than looking at lots of different information. At other times, try watching comedy or favourite films or reading a book to distract you.
- Keep in touch with friends and family – although we may not be able to meet face-to-face there are other ways to keep in touch, such as phones, FaceTime, Zoom calls and texts. It’s important to feel connected at this time.
- Create a daily routine – even though your normal routine may have vanished, creating a structure to your week can help you to cope better and manage any anxiety you are feeling. Who knows, you may even find some activities that you will choose to keep as part of your routine after Covid!
- Stay active – this is particularly important if you have a degenerative condition like arthritis as inactivity can exacerbate symptoms. Try to find activities that you enjoy such as a daily walk or participating in an online Yoga class.
- Take your medication regularly – this is always important but particularly now as planned surgery may be delayed and routine appointments cancelled.
- Reach out for help – if you are struggling, whether that is physically or emotionally, reach out and ask for help, don’t try and cope alone. We are available to provide advice, support and certain types of treatment.
- Stay positive – remember, this situation won’t last forever, the Spring is coming and there are people on hand to support you.
Please continue to follow Government guidelines and if you need help with your current condition please contact us and we will be happy to advise you.
Carrothers Orthopaedics Consultations
Carrothers Orthopaedics is still here for our patients during this time. Whilst treatment options have been restricted in previous months, we are still providing online consultations via Zoom or telephone, as well as face to face if the condition necessitates.
We are here for you to talk through your symptoms, provide diagnosis with imaging modalities and discuss the full range of treatments available to you.
If you are experiencing new musculoskeletal symptoms or require support or advice about an existing condition please contact us.