Living With Osteoarthritis
After you have been diagnosed with osteoarthritis and have started treatment, there are several important ways you can further reduce the toll of this disease on your lifestyle. Things that you can do for yourself include:
Develop a positive outlook. It is important to have a positive attitude, because people with osteoarthritis who become discouraged or stop trying to keep moving tend not to do as well as those who remain positive. Sometimes psychological counseling can help shift your focus from negative aspects of your disease (what you cannot do) to the positive aspects (what you can do).
Adapt. It is important to recognize new limitations imposed by osteoarthritis. There may be things you can no longer do in the same way as before and some things you can no longer do at all. But with some creativity and guidance from professionals skilled in the care of people with osteoarthritis and from other people with osteoarthritis, you still can participate in most activities in some form or another. For example, people with osteoarthritis of the hands and thumb may have difficulty pinching; this can hamper the ability to cook or write. But many people with this problem improve their ability to cook or write by using pens or utensils with larger handles or by wearing splints. Adapting to your arthritis does not mean giving in to it.
Keep moving. Moving your joints, especially those affected by osteoarthritis, is generally better than not moving them. When you keep moving, you are more likely to maintain your joint mobility and you reduce the chance that this disease will further impair your mobility and flexibility. The phrase "use it or lose it" applies to osteoarthritic joints. Whether your osteoarthritis is treated with drugs, surgery or neither, it is vital that you find a way to keep moving.
Lose weight. If you are carrying extra weight, losing even five or 10 pounds can reduce joint pain and may even protect your joints from further deterioration. There is an association between obesity and osteoarthritis, but whether obesity causes arthritis and whether weight loss can halt progression of this disease is less clear. Even so, many people with osteoarthritis notice improvements when they lose a little weight.
Strengthen your bones with calcium and vitamin D. Researchers have linked low blood levels of vitamin D and low intake of vitamin D with osteoarthritis. Also, bone weakness related to osteoporosis can lead to bone fractures, which may, in turn, increase the risk of osteoarthritis and other health problems. People with weak bones often need further evaluation and treatment, but calcium and vitamin D supplements are a good start.
Don't give up. Even though osteoarthritis is common among older people, it is not inevitable, and it is not necessarily debilitating. If you have joint pain, have your health-care provider evaluate you to establish a diagnosis. If you are diagnosed with osteoarthritis, recognize that many effective treatments are available. If one treatment doesn't work, another one may. Work with your health-care provider to find the treatment that is best for you.