Arthritis is a pretty miserable fact of life for about 35 million Americans. The most common kind, osteoarthritis, is a degenerative joint condition, which can cause cartilage to degenerate, followed by the bones that begin rubbing together when they lose their cartilage. However, arthritis covers a group of about 100 different diseases involving joint pain and degeneration.
For most people, arthritis can be manageable, especially in its early stages. Here are some ways to keep arthritic pain to a minimum.
- Practice relaxation techniqes to relax stiff joints and to feel more able to face arthritis pain.
- Hot and cold therapy (heat packs, ice packs) can help to relieve the stiffness and pain of arthritis.
- Exercise regularly to keep joints loose and to keep you healthy everywhere else. Exercise strengthens the muscles around the joints and can help you to reduce the stress of everyday tasks on your joints. (Besides, if you're going to be falling apart, you may as well keep the rest of you together, right?)
- Reduce the stress to your joints as much as possible. This may seem to counter the suggestion to exercise, but careful exercise that avoids the things that cause major pain can still fall into this category. It may mean finding new ways to do things, like using self-help devices, lifting with your legs instead of your back, resting as often as you need to while you are doing any physical activity, even using arthritis friendly medicine bottles. In some cases, it just means asking for help when you need it.
- Get plenty of sleep, which can reduce the swelling caused by arthritis and give you the energy to manage the painful days.