I’ve written about my osteoarthritis before. It’s a drag but I am definitely doing a much better job of self-managing and consequently, feeling much better!
The photos above, from my recent trip, are indicative of the wider range of motion I’ve gotten back – being able to kneel or step into that jeep is a big deal for me.
Here’s what I’ve learned about the disease and, based on my own experience, what works best to keep it under control:
- Arthritis is the leading cause of disability in the USA.
- There are more than 100 different types of arthritis and more than 50 million adults in the U.S. have some form.
- It is most common among women and occurs more frequently as people age.
- The most common type is osteoarthritis (which is what I have) – it’s caused by degeneration of cartilage, the soft tissue located between the joints.
- The disease is irreversible but the symptoms can usually be effectively managed.
- Risk factors for osteoarthritis include excess weight, family history, age, and previous injury.
- Weight control is crucial: every pound translates to 4 lbs of extra stress on your joints. Lose 5 lbs and there will 20 lbs less stress on your hip or knee joint.
- I absolutely feel better when I lose even just a few pounds.
- Since osteoarthritis is incurable and degenerative, a commitment to self-management is critical to minimizing the speed/scope of the condition’s impact.
Read on below for some of the things I do DAILY that have been the most effective in helping me feel better.
- Stretching exercises right before I fall asleep and first thing in the morning before I get out of bed.
- Stretching reduces stiffness in the joints. I’ve seen major improvements in how I feel.
- During the day, when I am working at my desk, I get up and walk around minimally every hour, sometimes every 30 minutes. HUGE IMPACT.
- Manage my weight. My goal – fingers crossed – is to lose 16 lbs. over the next 4 months (1 lb a week). As I mentioned above each pound contributes 4x the stress on damaged joints.
- Avoid activities that are going to be painful e.g. I was always a MAJOR walker – 10 miles was no problem. I can’t do that anymore. I know from counting steps on my iphone that when I walk beyond 15,000 steps, I will be in pain the next day and need to rest which is such a drag but – it is what it is!!
- Fortunately I love going to the gym which is excellent since physical activity is critical to managing the pain and loss of mobility associated with arthritis.
- I work out every day for an hour – 30 minutes of aerobics and 30 minutes of exercises specifically related to my arthritis with stretches and range-of-motion exercises.
- Additionally, I have signed up with a trainer at my Y. Once a week, for 30 minutes, we focus on building the muscles around my joints as well as doing gradual, progressive strength training. Best decision ever. Thank you David Luis!!!
- BOTTOM LINE: Feeling so much better, more limber, in less pain and absolutely committed to managing this thing without going under the knife.