For people with arthritis, carrying out day-to-day tasks is far from easy – in fact, very often attempting basic tasks can be both difficult and painful.
Whether you’ve recently been diagnosed or you have been living with arthritis for some time, there are many ways that the condition can impact your life from swelling and pain in your joints to sleeping problems, general exhaustion and reduced flexibility.
If you’re wondering whether there’s anything you can do differently to make things easier or reduce your pain, read on.
The power of exercise
If you suffer with painful arthritis, exercise may be the last thing on your mind. But hear us out – according to the NHS, maintaining an active lifestyle can actually help many people to reduce and prevent the pain caused by arthritis. What’s more, it can also help to improve your flexibility and range of movement, give you an energy boost, reduce any stiffness in the joints and improve your muscle strength.
We’re not suggesting you enter a marathon or compete in a weight-lifting challenge – but providing you stick to the correct level and type of movement, exercising certainly won’t make your arthritis any worse. It could even help!
Speak to your GP to find out which type of exercise would benefit you most – yoga, swimming and walking are all sensible options to consider.
Eating a healthy diet
When it comes to meals, the Mediterranean diet has been proven to improve the symptoms of arthritis. Whether you choose to follow this specific eating plan or simply give your overall diet a makeover, maintaining a balanced and healthy diet is vital if you have arthritis. Eating the ‘right’ foods will provide your body with all the nutrients it needs to maintain a healthy weight.
And if you are currently heavier than you should be, it’s a good idea to try to lose a little weight. This will reduce the amount of extra pressure being put on the joints in your knees, hips, feet and ankles. Reducing this pressure should help to reduce pain and improve your mobility levels.
It’s important to eat a range of foods from each of the five food groups:
- Vegetables and fruit
- Starchy foods (e.g. potatoes, rice, pasta and bread)
- Protein-rich foods like fish, meat, beans and eggs
- Dairy products such as milk and cheese
- Healthy fats and sugar
Taking up a new hobby
It’s a sad fact that having arthritis sometimes means people can find it more difficult to keep up with hobbies or interests that they enjoy. Activities like painting, playing the piano and even cookery or baking can often become a real struggle. But even if this is the case for you, there are still ways you can participate in the activities you enjoy – or you could start a brand-new hobby. Here are a few ideas:
- Music: If you’ve always enjoyed playing music but you no longer have the manual dexterity to play the piano, guitar or another favourite instrument, there are plenty of other ways to feed your love for music. Percussive instruments like chimes and bells are a good option, or you could join a local choir group if you like singing. Best of all, taking part in a group activity such as an orchestra or choir gives you a great opportunity to meet new people, socialise and have fun – so it’s a great boost for your mental health, too.
- Art & Craft Activities: When it comes to art, the possibilities are endless. If you’re no longer able to paint intricate scenes, there are still ways you can enjoy crafting. Why not ask a family member or friend to give you a hand if you need some ideas to get started?
- Dancing: It’s fair to say that some styles of dancing probably will be tricky if you have arthritis. But dancing styles such as line dancing or ballroom dancing can still be an option. Have a chat with your GP to find out which types of dancing (or exercise in general) they think would suit you best.
Caring for your joints
When you have arthritis, looking after your joints is the best way to prevent any further damage. The NHS suggests trying the following ideas to protect your joints:
- Try to use your bigger and stronger joints as levers – for example, if you need to open a heavy door, try to take the pressure on one of your shoulders, instead of your hand
- When carrying heavy items like shopping bags, use more than one of your joints to spread the load. Alternatively, use a rucksack worn on both shoulders.
- Avoid gripping things too tightly. Use the loosest grip possible or try using a padded handle which will help to widen your grip.
- Try not to sit in the same position for too long and move around as much as you are able to.
Small changes you can make at home
A few practical changes at home can make a huge difference in your quality of life:
- Keep items that you use regularly close by so that you can get them easily
- Invest in a long-handed grabber tool, to help you pick things up or assist you with cleaning tasks
- Fit levers to taps in the bathroom and kitchen to make them easier to use
- Update some of your kitchen equipment with electronic versions, for example, an electric tin opener
If you are living with arthritis and struggling to carry out your daily activities, it is always worth arranging an appointment to discuss your concerns with your GP. Don’t suffer in silence – your doctor may be able to refer you for treatment with an Occupational Therapist or prescribe a different medication to you.