Dr Wendy Holden
Consultant Rheumatologist and Medical Advisor, Arthritis Action
From weight-loss to worrying: ten things to consider when living with arthritis.
1. Don’t panic.
Arthritis is not an inevitably progressive condition that will cause ever-worsening pain and disability. There is a lot you can do to help yourself. Arthritis pains usually come and go, sometimes even disappearing completely.
2. Don’t worry about your X-rays.
There is very little correlation between joint damage seen on X-rays and the level of pain. Terrible-looking joints on X-ray can be completely painless, so ignore words like “degenerative change” which are meaningless.
3. It’s not your fault.
Arthritis isn’t caused by too much work or sport. Joint injuries may lead to arthritis later in life, but extreme athletes are no more likely to develop osteoarthritis than anyone else.
4. Keep moving.
Exercise cannot damage the joints whereas inactivity weakens the supporting muscles, increasing pain and instability. Try to combine resistance exercises such as weight-training (or muscle-building equivalent activities such as gardening or housework) with aerobic exercise such as walking or swimming, with stretching to maintain flexibility.
5. Use the stairs rather than the lift.
Knee pain often improves once you get going.
6. On a bad day, try relaxation, meditation or distraction.
Calming the mind can help reduce pain.
7. Improve your balance.
Tai Chi may be as effective as physiotherapy for knee osteoarthritis.
8. Keep to a healthy weight.
Every extra pound of weight means an extra 5 pounds passing through the knees, hips and feet. Losing weight can reduce joint pain as much as prescription painkillers.
9. No foods can worsen arthritis.
Don’t waste money on unproven dietary supplements, as everything you need for your joints is present in a normal healthy diet.
10. Try to get a good night’s sleep.
Good sleep quality can reduce pain and anxiety.