Most people with osteoarthritis live full, active lives. Those who do best are managing their disease in partnership with their doctor. You can get life-enhancing payoffs from learning as much as possible about arthritis - its causes, effects and treatments. Following an active lifestyle is often the most effective treatment for osteoarthritis.
Once you accept that you have osteoarthritis, you can adapt your lifestyle to meet the challenges that damage to a joint can create. By taking charge of your treatment, you can learn how to manage your pain, control your weight and use exercise most effectively. You should also take advantage of the services in your community, such as swimming exercise classes, that are designed specifically for people with arthritis.
Learning about osteoarthritis and its effects and treatment is the first step in managing the disease. The more you know about your illness, the more control you will have over it and the more successful your treatment is likely to be. Look up information about arthritis in your public library or contact your local chapter of the Arthritis Foundation. Many national and local organizations, including the Arthritis Foundation, offer services, such as help with daily activities, classes or videotapes that teach people who have arthritis how to manage their illness.
Check with your doctor, physical therapist, nurses, local hospitals, senior citizen centers, health clinics, and health clubs about classes, organizations or meetings concerning arthritis.
Many people find it beneficial to join a support group of other people who have arthritis. In a support group, people learn from each other by sharing their experiences and insights. Ask your doctor or check your local newspaper or telephone book for information about arthritis support groups in your area. Many hospitals keep lists of local support groups, their locations and meeting times.
One of the most powerful weapons against arthritis is a positive attitude. Having an optimistic outlook can increase your ability to control your symptoms and greatly improve the quality of your life. Thinking you can gain control over your pain and knowing you can accomplish everyday tasks gives you self-confidence and a sense of well-being. This self-confidence can boost the effectiveness of your treatment program. Arthritis can make you feel angry, sad, resentful, irritable, helpless, frustrated or afraid. These feelings are normal. But taking an active approach to your illness can help you overcome these feelings and cope in a more positive way. Here are some things you can do to improve your outlook:
People with arthritis can protect their joints by learning new ways to use them. You can avoid excessive stress on smaller, more fragile joints by using larger or stronger joints to carry things. For example, carry grocery bags using your forearms or the palms of your hands instead of your fingers. Carry food on a tray, using your forearms and hands instead of your fingers. Use lightweight, plastic dishes. Here are some other things you can do to limit stress on your joints:
Your family members and friends can play a critical role in helping you learn to live with arthritis. People who have the loving support of others do better in all areas of managing their illness. Talking with loved ones about the difficulties you are having can help prevent depression and improve your ability to cope with your illness. Don't be afraid to ask for help whenever you need it. People are willing to help - they usually just need to be asked.