If you have arthritis, you can and should exercise because it may help reduce stiffness and increase your flexibility. Exercise builds strength and endurance, improves balance, decreases body fat and improves movement in joints and muscles. Exercise also improves feelings of well-being and reduces stress, which in turn helps reduce the emotional burden of pain caused by arthritis or other conditions. Stretching exercises can increase the amount of movement in joints and muscles. Ask your doctor what type and amount of exercise is best for you.
Living With Arthritis
When living with arthritis, daily activities like opening doors, climbing stairs and even getting out of bed can be difficult and painful due to joint inflammation. Exercise reduces pain and disability, partly because it stimulates the production of synovial fluid that lubricates the joints. Regular daily exercise also helps maintain a healthy weight and improve overall muscle tone and balance, both which lessen strain on the joints.
1 AnswerIf dialing a standard telephone is a pain:
- Purchase a large-keypad telephone and use the palm of your hand to press the buttons. You can purchase these phones from electronics, office or discount stores. You may want to contact your telephone company’s special-needs department regarding telephones with disability-friendly features and accessibility services they may offer.
- Look for a phone with an automatic dial feature. These phones dial your most frequently called numbers with the touch of just one button; some are even voice operated.
- Use a speaker phone to make using the telephone easier. Speaker phones allow you to talk from up to 15 feet away without having to hold the receiver. Speaker phones are available wherever traditional phones are sold.
- Use your telephone as an intercom system. Ask your telephone company if “revertive calling” is available in your area. If so, signal and speak to family members in other rooms by simply dialing your telephone number, waiting for a busy signal and hanging up the receiver; all the phones in your house will ring and individuals can pick up the handsets and speak to each other without hearing a dial tone in the background.
1 AnswerHere are some handy tips to make it easier to find phone numbers if you have difficulty using your hands:
- Keep important and frequently used phone numbers handy. Avoid having to use a heavy phone book by keeping frequently used phone numbers handy on a printed list near each telephone. Using large print to make the names easier to read, list the phone numbers for individuals you call frequently on one page and the numbers of frequently called businesses, doctors and others (as well as the poison control center and emergency numbers) on another. Make copies of both lists, place them back-to-back and slip them into clear acetate sheets. Put one list near each phone in your house. If you have a cell phone, enter frequently used numbers into the cell phone directory and use it to look up and dial numbers.
- Cut large, heavy telephone directories in half. If handling a heavy telephone directory is hard on your hands, try dividing large telephone directories into two sections -- the yellow pages and the white pages. Use clear tape to add a cardboard cover to the cut ends.
- Contact your telephone company to see if you qualify for free of charge, directory-assistance services. Your doctor will need to document exactly how your disability prevents you from using a telephone book to obtain addresses and phone numbers.
- Ask the reference librarian at your local library to find phone numbers, if you are having a difficult day and do not qualify for directory assistance.
- Use the Internet yellow and white pages to look up addresses and phone numbers anytime day or night.
1 AnswerDr. Grant Cooper, MD , Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation, answeredAnyone can benefit from strength training, and everyone, to some extent, should include it in her exercise routine. When done in conjunction with stretching and aerobic exercise, it will improve your mobility, decrease pain, and help prevent worsening of arthritis symptoms. The kind of strength training you should do to treat and prevent arthritis is somewhat different than the kind that adds muscle bulk.
Arthritis involves the loss of some of the cushioning effects of cartilage in a joint. The joint may be painful, swollen, and need protection. Strong, flexible muscles help protect the joints. By being well-toned, the muscles that surround a joint provide a buffer, so the ligaments, bones, and joint capsule don't have to absorb all of the forces acting on it.
1 AnswerHere are some tips to help you keep a positive attitude when you have arthritis:
- Keep balance in your life. Prioritize, eliminate, consolidate and streamline activities in all aspects of your life.
- Take care of yourself. Make compromises. Do the things that are important to you and your family and try to eliminate unnecessary or difficult tasks. Be selfish with how you spend your time and energy. Give yourself permission to rest. Put your feet up when possible and take the word “should” out of your vocabulary.
- Pace your activities and rest before you’re exhausted. Try to break any given activity into a series of smaller tasks. If need be, enlist the help of others.
- Eat a healthy diet. Don’t skip meals or resort to junk food. Our bodies need regular meals and whole foods -- filled with essential vitamins, minerals and proteins -- to build and grow. This is especially important when you have an illness. Ask your doctor whether an anti-inflammatory diet would be helpful.
- Ask for help when you need it. Don’t look at it as giving in; see asking for help as making an intelligent decision that will make your life easier, healthier and safer. And remember: when you ask someone to help you, you are giving them the opportunity to do a good deed for someone else. So, do something nice for someone else -- ask for their help.
1 AnswerWhether you’ve had arthritis for years or you’ve just been diagnosed, here are ideas for being proactive about conserving energy.
- Sit down while you work. If you have pain in your legs, knees or feet, take the strain of gravity off by sitting down to work. Even tall counters, such as those in the kitchen and work room, can be made easier to work at using tall stools -- some even come with rollers to make getting around easier.
- Combine errands as much as possible. If you are making the effort to get dressed and get in the car, don’t just go out for one thing -- conserve gas and energy by making a list and running all your errands at one time. Be efficient -- list your errands in the order you wish to run them, making a circle from home to the farthest point and home again or, if you might run out of time or energy, prioritize by importance and do the most important things first.
- Spread out high-energy tasks. Instead of trying to do the laundry, get groceries and clean the house all in one day, spread these activities out throughout the week. Give yourself time to rest, perhaps even a rest day, in between high-intensity activities.
1 AnswerNational Academy of Sports Medicine answeredWhile lots of scientists have looked at the possible link between foods and the development of arthritis, there’s not much evidence to support it. Naturally, if you eat certain foods and arthritis symptoms seem to worsen, avoid that food, but make sure you are still getting a balanced diet and eating a wide variety of healthy foods. The food-arthritis link is often related to a discussion of food allergies and arthritis. Food allergies occur when your immune system mistakenly believes that something you ate is harmful. To protect you, the immune system makes antibodies against that food. The antibodies set off a chain reaction that causes symptoms. Once antibodies are made against a particular food, the body instantly recognizes that food the next time it is consumed, and the cycle begins again. While research continues in this area to see if certain foods can be identified that make arthritis worse, no good evidence exists at this time.
1 AnswerIf you are affected by cold or damp, consider heating your towels. Microwave your bath towel and keep it warm in an insulated cooler while you bathe or consider installing heated towel drawers -- towels and blankets stored inside can instantly provide soothing warmth to sore joints and aching muscles. Look for towel warmers at home improvement stores.
1 AnswerSupport group members understand your struggles because they face or have faced the same challenges. To find an arthritis support group in your community, consult the Yellow Pages of your telephone book or look for online resources.
The Arthritis Foundation’s Discussion Boards offer online forums for communicating with others. There are forums for research, just-diagnosed, young adults, advocacy, coping, parenting and more. Use these boards to connect with others who live with arthritis, to make new friends and to create a circle of support for yourself.
You might also consider starting a small group that gets together for lunch or coffee. Being with others who have your illness can alleviate fears rather than worsen them.