Nearly 60 million American men and women have arthritis, including many with symptoms that limit their everyday activities. While there’s no cure for arthritis, there are medical treatments that can help you manage your symptoms, and there are simple steps you can take to protect your joints.
Arthritis happens when the protective cartilage that lines the joints wears down, causing inflammation and painful friction inside the joint. Most arthritis happens from physical wear and tear on the joint. Less commonly, arthritis is triggered by an abnormal immune system response.
Thomas Powell, MD, of Powell Orthopedics and Sports Medicine in Vestavia Hills, Alabama, is an expert in treating arthritis. He often combines medications and lifestyle changes to help relieve symptoms and slow joint damage. If you have arthritis, here are five common habits that could be making your symptoms worse.
1. Being sedentary
Most Americans don’t get the recommended amount of physical activity to support good health, according to recent data from the CDC, and about a quarter of adults don’t get any physical exercise at all.
Regular physical activity benefits joints in several ways. First, using your joints helps distribute fluid that keeps the inside surfaces lubricated for smoother movement and less friction. Second, exercise strengthens the muscles around the joint to help take some of the pressure off the joint surfaces.
Third, exercise helps you maintain a healthy weight to reduce strain on weight-bearing joints, such as your knees, hips, and the joints in your feet and lower back. And finally, exercising can help reduce stress, which, in turn, can help you cope better with your arthritis symptoms.
2. Overdoing it
Regular physical activity is important for keeping joints healthy, but it’s also important not to put too much strain on sore joints. Look for low-impact activities, such as walking or swimming. Yoga is another good choice as long as you work with a provider who understands your condition and can adjust your routine to avoid strain.
3. Being afraid of mobility aids
If you have a vision problem, you probably don’t feel “bad” about wearing glasses or contact lenses. In fact, most people with vision problems are thrilled to have a simple solution they can turn to. Yet when it comes to canes, walkers, or other assistive devices that can help us move or complete other tasks, we can be less than thrilled to tap into their benefits.
Maybe it’s because we’re stubborn, because using devices makes us feel weak, or because we don’t want to think about “getting older.” Whatever the reason, not using a device that can help you get more out of life can be short-sighted.
There are many devices that can help you be more comfortable, more mobile, and more active, and it’s important to approach these devices with an open mind and at least give them a try when they’re needed.
4. Pretending you don’t have arthritis
When joint pain first strikes, it can be tempting to deny that you have arthritis — and that you might need medical care. But getting care early and seeing your doctor regularly are essential for minimizing pain and slowing the joint damage associated with arthritis.
If you’ve been diagnosed with arthritis, or if you have sore or aching joints, scheduling an evaluation is the first step toward better health now and in the future.
5. Focusing on the negative aspects of arthritis
While you certainly shouldn’t ignore arthritis, it’s also important not to dwell on your symptoms or fall into a “victim” mindset. Many people who have chronic pain wind up feeling anxious and depressed, which can make their symptoms feel worse.
On the other hand, focusing on the positive aspects of life can help you put things in perspective and find new ways to meet your challenges. That’s important for your physical health and your mental health, too. Joining an arthritis support group is a great way to connect with others who share your experiences.
Get help for arthritis pain
Because arthritis is a progressive disease, it’s important to have regular office visits to make sure your arthritis treatment plan remains as effective as possible. To learn how we can help you deal with the pain and stiffness of arthritis, call 205-606-5232 or request an appointment online with Powell Orthopedics and Sports Medicine today.