Living Well With Osteoarthritis
Osteoarthritis involves having a wear and tear type of arthritis in which the cartilage becomes worn away and bone often rubs against bone inside the joints. Both large joints and small joints can be involved in osteoarthritis and the incidence of the disease increases with advancing age. Because of these the person afflicted will experience swelling, pain, and stiffness in the affected joints.
Does this mean that living with osteoarthritis means daily suffering without drugs? Not so, but some effort is required if you want to stay away from medication, or worse, surgery. Just keep in mind that it is a progressive disease, that is, having a surgery now will not fix it for good.
What are some ways you can improve your quality of life when living with osteoarthritis?
Here are some things you can do that will make it easier to live while suffering from this degenerative disease:
- Low Impact exercise. Things like walking and swimming are easy on the joints and can provide you with extra energy if you exercise at least 30 minutes per day. By doing these exercises, you can decrease your risk of developing heart disease and will have more stamina as you go through the typical activities of daily living.
- Eat high calcium foods. Foods that are high in calcium will strengthen the bones and will decrease the risk of osteoporosis. Foods with calcium in them include dairy products and green, leafy vegetables like spinach. Include some of these foods in your daily diet and you will have stronger bones and a decreased risk of fracture from falls or other injuries.
- Eat foods high in vitamin D. Vitamin D works with calcium to put the calcium in the bones. Many dairy products are fortified with vitamin D so you get the vitamin along with the calcium, which will work together to maximize the density of the bones, preventing osteoporosis and secondary fractures.
- Practice stretching exercises. Stretching exercises in bed or on an exercise mat will keep the ligaments and tendons attached to the joints more limber so you suffer from less stiffness. Stretching exercises can be done first thing in the morning before you get out of bed or just before engaging in aerobic exercise. Stretching prevents injuries you might get if you just go out and exercise without loosening up the joints through regular stretching exercises.
- Engage in yoga. Yoga involves putting the body in various poses and holding the poses as you focus on your breathing. Yoga can strengthen the muscles and can improve balance, so that you can walk better with a decreased chance of falling and suffering from fractures because of a fall.
- De-stress your life. This involves getting rid of anything that increases the stress in your life, whether it is relationship stress, financial stressors, or work-related stressors. The fewer stressors you have in your life, the better able you are to have a decreased perception of pain.
- Have a massage. Massage therapy can increase the circulation to the muscles and joints so you have increased warmth to these areas and increased relaxation. A good massage can decrease your perception of pain and can improve the quality of your life.
- Engage in meditation. Meditation is an activity anyone can do regardless of his or her physical abilities. You can do meditation by lying down or sitting in a comfortable chair, focusing on your breathing and perhaps saying a mantra that puts you in a deep stage of relaxation. You can also practice guided imagery as part of your meditative practice, in which you imagine yourself in a beautiful place and use your senses to really feel as if you are in that place. It is relaxing and decreases the perception of pain.
- Engage in Tai chi. Tai chi is an ancient Asian practice that was once considered a martial art. Now it is used to improve health and relaxation in people who use fluid movements associated with focusing on breathing. Tai chi has been known to improve strength, increase balance, and decrease the perception of pain in people who are suffering from osteoarthritis and other pain conditions. It can be practiced by people who have just about any level of physical abilities.
- Engage in Qi Gong. This is another ancient form of martial arts out of Asia that is currently popular as a healthy activity. It involves engaging in fluid movements similar to those seen in tai chi but doesn’t require that you stand up and it can be done by people who have extremely limited ability to engage in physical activity.