Ten Easy Tips to Help Cope with Arthritis Pain
July 1, 2002
As each day brings new challenges, coping with the pain and discomfort of arthritis can be overwhelming. The following are 10 suggestions to help you persevere when dealing with the difficult aspects of arthritis pain.
1. Wellness & pain
One way to reduce your pain is to build your life around wellness, not pain or sickness. This means thinking positive thoughts, having a sense of humor, eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly, surrounding yourself with positive people and enjoying activities with friends and family.
2. Good posture = less stress
Good posture is key to minimizing the stress on your joints as well as the spine. To stand with good posture keep your feet 12 inches apart, with the outside of your feet forming two parallel lines. As you stand keep your weight evenly distributed between both feet and keep your shoulders drawn back and down to lift and broaden your chest. Your chin should be parallel with the ground. To help keep good posture imagine a string attached to the top of your head gently lifting you up.
3. Your weight and your knees
Losing weight can take pressure off of you knees. Every time you take a step the force, or pressure, across your knees and hips is two to three times your body weight. For example, if you weigh 150 pounds, when you walk your knees and hips are shouldering the burden of closer to 450 pounds – a particular handicap for someone whose joints have deteriorated. To put it another way, if you gain 20 excess pounds your knees carry a burden of up to 120 extra pounds. The more weight you carry the more pressure there is on your joint. The more pressure on the joint the more pain you may have, and the faster the joint deteriorates. Losing just 10 pounds can take about 30 pounds of pressure off the knees when you walk.
4. High heels hurt
Women with arthritis may want to reconsider wearing high heels. Researchers at Boston’s Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital found that the movements of women who frequently wear high heels of at least two inches high (including thick heels) increases torque (twisting force) at the knee, straining the joint near the back of the kneecap. This stress can increase wear and tear and lead to or worsen osteoarthritis.
5. Functional footwear
When exercising wear sturdy supportive shoes that are not worn out, preferably athletic shoes. To check if your shoes are too worn, place your shoes on a table or counter at eye level and determine if the soles are worn on the outside or inside edges. You may see wear in the soles on either side and/or in the heel of the shoe, leaning in or out. Exercising with shoes that are worn out can overstress the joints. As a rule of thumb: if you have been using one pair of athletic shoes for a year, it is time to replace them.
6. House cleaning
When cleaning around the house, it’s a good idea not to take on more than one major cleaning job a day, try to allow a lot of time to get the job done. Take frequent breaks, listen to music – whatever will help make the job as easy and pleasant as possible. Try making cleanups a family responsibility. Decide at the beginning of each week which chores need to be accomplished and divide them up.
7. Measured improvement
Arthritis professionals recommend that people with rheumatoid arthritis use a scale from 1 to 10 to measure their pain before and after they begin a new practice or make changes in their daily life. By tracking changes in this way, you’ll be able to clearly see what improves your pain, and what doesn’t.
8. Daily diary
Keep a pain diary. Write about your level of pain at different times, how you're feeling, and what activities you can and can not do. Keep a record of medications you're taking or any non-drug treatments. Bring the diary to your doctor visits.
9. Get your Zs
Sleep restores your energy so that you can better manage pain. It also rests your joints to reduce pain and swelling. Most people need seven to nine hours of sleep per night. If you feel tired and achy after lunch every day, taking a brief nap (15 to 20 minutes) can help restore your energy and spirits. If you have trouble sleeping at night, try relaxing quietly in the afternoon rather than taking a nap.
10. What pain?
One way to take your mind off pain is to focus on something else. The amount of time you spend thinking about pain has a lot to do with how much discomfort you feel. People who dwell on their pain usually say their pain is worse than those who don’t dwell on it.
1. Arthritis Foundation: www.arthritis.org
2. Nelson, M., Baker, K., Roubenof, R., Lindner, L. Strong Women and Men Beat Arthritis. G.P. Putman’s Sons: New York. 2002
3. Koehn, D., Palmer, T., Esdaile. Rheumatoid Arthritis: Plan to Win. Oxford University Press: Oxford. 2002
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