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Osteoarthritis: Dealing Day-to-Day

Reviewed By: Vikas Garg, M.D., MSA

Being told that you have osteoarthritis (OA) can be troubling. After all, no one wants to deal with arthritis pain. The pain and stiffness caused by the condition prohibit many people from engaging in physical activities if they do not manage their condition properly. Fortunately, there are ways to manage your pain and stay active.

Remember that having OA, though at times inconvenient and painful, does not mean that you can't live a productive and fulfilling life. Here are some tips that may help you deal more effectively with osteoarthritis.

  1. Learn about your condition
    Many people suffer unnecessarily from the pain of OA because they are uninformed. Learn everything you can about OA from reliable sources of information. It's a good idea to write down questions questions as you think of them and ask your doctor later. Remember not to be shy about asking them; doctors are professionals trained to deal with all sorts of conditions and diseases that many people are embarrassed to talk about. Get a second opinion if you think you could benefit from one.

    Because OA is characterized by continual "wear and tear" of the cartilage in your joints, you should be aware that your pain and stiffness might worsen over time if left untreated. Being informed about how your particular case of OA is progressing will help you to better manage your condition, as well as prepare for what difficulties you may have to face in the future .

  2. Identify your risk factors and take steps to minimize them
    Factors such as age, heredity, weight, prior joint injury and certain medical conditions can increase your chance of getting OA. Be sure to identify what puts you at the most risk for the condition and act accordingly to minimize those risks you can control.

    If you are starting to approach middle age and you don't feel as limber as you once did, it may simply be a sign of age. However, an unusual amount of pain or stiffness that occurs more frequently or lasts longer than you are accustomed to may be an indicator of osteoarthritic damage to your joints. The same goes for if an old injury to your joints bothers you more than it used to, or if your joints feel more stressed than they when you weighed less.

    Talk to your doctor about activities that cause you joint pain and what you can do to minimize the discomfort you feel .

  3. Modify your exercise routine
    Though it may be disheartening to realize that OA may keep you from engaging in certain activities that never previously gave you any trouble, modifying your exercise/activity routine in light of OA can keep you fit and healthy while reducing joint pain and damage. For example, those weekend basketball games may be more trouble than they're worth if your knee is stiff and in pain for several days afterward.

    If you have a routine of exercise or physical activity that is difficult to maintain because of OA, you might want to consider seeking out new activities that place less stress on the affected joints. You may want to try walking or riding a bike instead of jogging. Sure, it may take you a while to adjust to the difference in routine. But your joints will thank you for it later by not being as inflamed.

    Swimming is known to be one of the most beneficial of all exercises for a number of reasons. Chief among these for people with OA is that there is no impact on the joints. Swimming and pool training have long been practiced by people looking for a challenging workout without negatively impacting their joints. Specially designed aquatic fitness programs benefit many people with arthritis. Just don't forget the sunscreen if your pool is outdoors!

  4. Know which treatments work best for you and utilize them
    Knowing which treatments work best for treating your OA is critical to minimizing the pain and inflammation caused by the condition. Obviously, you wouldn't consider surgery for your OA if your condition isn't that serious. Likewise, a treatment such as a hot or cold pack may offer some relief but is not going to resolve severely debilitating pain.

    Many patients, particularly elderly individuals, underreport pain for a variety of reasons. Some patients fear complaints will not be taken seriously. Others believe that adequate pain remedies are simply not available or worry about becoming hooked on painkillers. Though it is true that some physicians do not treat pain sufficiently because they fear that patients will become addicted to pain medications, this shouldn't hold you back from talking to your doctor about what treatments are most appropriate for you and your situation. Injection into the joint with a corticosteroid can also help to reduce pain and improve mobility.

    Taking such steps will help you learn what to expect from your condition, the limitations that may result, and what you can do to ease your OA. It may also help to remember that OA won't be as likely to keep you inactive and away from doing what you love if you treat symptoms of OA in the most effective manner possible .

  5. Involve family and friends
    Many people are unaware that they may be at risk for developing OA as they age. You may choose to involve your spouse in your new routine to minimize OA. Having a companion will also make those walks or bike rides more meaningful and enjoyable than they would be otherwise. Plus you'll both be doing something to help yourselves look and feel better.

  6. Don't get frustrated
    If the pain and inconvenience of OA has gotten you down, don't blame yourself. There are many disorders over which the individual has little or no control. Consider yourself lucky that OA is not one of them. Though OA can be a pain at times, most individuals with the condition are able to live full, healthy lives with little or no compromise. By working with your doctor, sticking with treatments that work best for you and keeping a positive attitude, you should be able to overcome the obstacles OA throws your way.




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