I've talked with you in the past about using supplements like glucosamine sulfate and chondroitin sulfate for the pain of osteoarthritis instead of taking traditional pain killers or anti-inflammatory drugs. But if you have arthritis there are other therapies you can, and should, use as well – no matter which form of medication you take.
Since arthritis results in pain along with limited joint function, just taking something for the pain does nothing to help your joints move.
Two doctors from Gainesville, Florida, Shahid Zeb, MD, and N. Lawrence Edwards, MD, have examined the area of non-drug therapies for people with osteoarthritis. They stress the importance of becoming more educated about your disease. The Arthritis Self-Management Program, given through the Arthritis Foundation, can provide you with a better understanding of various types of arthritis and treatment protocols. This national organization has 150 chapters throughout the country. You can find them online at www.arthritis.org, or look in your phone book for a local chapter.
Lose Some Weight
If you weigh more than 10 percent of your ideal weight, losing weight could decrease your risk of getting arthritis in the knee by as much as 50 percent. If you already have arthritis in your knee or hip, losing weight will reduce your pain substantially. But this is easier said than done. Weight loss combined with exercise works best, and the pain and inflammation from arthritis often don’t permit the type of exercise that would encourage weight loss.
You may need to work with a nutritionist or dietician – or use some other techniques – to successfully lose weight. One simple step is to eat smaller portions and chew them well. Then wait 15-20 minutes before asking yourself if you’re still hungry. Often, you’ll find you’ve had enough, and you can cut back on calories without feeling deprived. Emotional support helps tremendously, so team up with a friend who has similar goals and work on a program together.
Exercises That Help Range of Motion
Arthritis limits your range motion (ROM) and often leads to weak muscles that tire easily. It places restrictions on simple daily tasks like reaching for something in a cupboard or zipping up a dress. When you do regular exercises to increase ROM, you’ll have more mobility along with less pain and fatigue. Depression lessens, too, since even small improvements are encouraging. Drs. Zeb and Edwards suggest the following regime for ROM exercises:
- Exercise during the part of the day when your pain and stiffness are least.
- Use heat for mild or chronic pain.
- Use cold packs for inflammation.
- Exercise in the evening to decrease your stiffness the next morning.
- Do gentle stretching to avoid increased pain.
- When you have an inflammation, do a little less —— but do something if you can.
If your arthritis is moderate to severe, or if you’re not used to exercising, begin with isometric exercises to strengthen muscles around your arthritic joints. Isometric exercises use a constant tension instead of movement. Strengthening exercises help your stability and guard against injuries from falls. The exercises outlined by Robert Swezey, MD, the rheumatologist who developed the OsteoBall, are isometric (800-728-2288). Not only do they help reverse osteoporosis and frailty, they strengthen your muscles as well.