Arthritis is a condition that affects the joints in the body, and there are many different types of arthritis that manifest in different ways. If you have arthritis, you will already know that it can be very painful, and in many cases, can become a debilitating and life-limiting condition. There is no definitive cure for any type of arthritis, but there are many ways to manage and treat the condition to limit the impact it has on your life and prevent it from worsening in the future.
The best way to address your arthritis pain is to work with a specialist rheumatologist who can help you to find the treatment path that will deliver the best outcomes for your individual situation. This may include lifestyle or dietary changes, in conjunction with assistive devices that make your daily life more manageable. You may find that certain medications are helpful in managing your arthritis, and surgery may even be an option in severe cases. Here, we explore some of the ways in which patients have found success in dealing with arthritis pain:
Techniques to manage Arthritis
There are many different ways to deal with the pain of arthritis, and you may find that you obtain relief from your pain with one of the following techniques:
- Changing your shoes. It may sound simple, but if you have arthritis in the joints of your toes and feet, a change of footwear can make a world of difference. There are 26 bones and 33 joints in each human foot, as well as more than a hundred muscles, tendons and ligaments, so it is easy to see how problematic joint pain in this area can be. Shoes that do not support the feet correctly or offer enough cushioning can lead to extra pressure being placed on the bones and joints in the feet, and this can cause the pain of arthritis to worsen. Wearing shoes that protect and cushion the feet properly, including arch support, can help to relieve arthritis pain and prevent long term problems developing in the future. This is even more important when you are exercising, and it is worth seeking expert advice to ensure that the shoes you wear are suited to your feet and to the type of exercise you are doing.
- Exercise. Exercise is a very important part of a treatment plan for arthritis, but the type of exercise that is recommended for you will depend upon the type of arthritis you have. For rheumatoid arthritis, for example, a plan that includes regular and intensive weight-bearing exercise can be very helpful. Alternatively, if you have osteoarthritis, you will be advised to increase your aerobic activity significantly, with some muscle training in addition. Yoga and pilates are often very helpful in easing the pain of arthritis and increasing flexibility, and meditation can also be very helpful in creating a positive mindset and coping with the pain you are experiencing. Exercising, in whatever form is recommended to you, is especially important to keep your joints mobile and relieve the tightness that can worsen the pain, and a qualified rheumatologist will work with you to create a treatment plan that will be tailored to your personal experience and lifestyle.
- Dietary changes. Many people find that dietary changes are a crucial part of their treatment for arthritis, and this is particularly relevant for those who suffer with gout, which can be caused and worsened by a diet high in purines. Cutting out these foods, which include red meat, alcohol, nightshade vegetables and seafood, can be life changing for those who experience regular attacks of gout. You may also find that cutting out inflammatory foods is helpful to reduce your joint pain, regardless of the type of arthritis you have.
- Physical therapy. You may find that physical therapy is extremely helpful in treating your arthritic pain, and your specialist rheumatologist may recommend the use of hydrotherapy, occupational therapy or physiotherapy. Physiotherapy is often very successful in the rehabilitation of affected joints and can help to increase mobility and flexibility on a long term basis. You can discuss these options with your doctor or your rheumatologist and find out what works for you.
- Medication. You may find that taking medication to relieve the pain of arthritis helps you to manage your daily life, and anti-inflammatory medications can also help to relieve the swelling in affected joints and improve mobility. Some medications can help to treat the cause of certain forms of arthritis, such as the medication that lowers the uric acid levels in the body, which is very useful for many people who have gout.
- Surgery. In extreme cases, surgery may be suggested in order to relieve pain and improve mobility and flexibility. Surgical options can range from tidying up the tissues of the affected joints to partial or whole joint replacement, and this can be very effective in many cases.
- Assistive devices. There are many ways to simplify your daily life to reduce the pressure on your joints and relieve the pain of arthritis, and you may find that assistive devices are very helpful here. There are many useful devices for use in the home, particularly in the kitchen, and these can help to prevent overuse of the affected joints and worsening pain in the future. If you have chronic arthritis, you should be eligible for a disabled parking pass, and this can help to limit the pressure on your joints when you are out and about.
The way in which your arthritis is treated will vary according to which type of arthritis you have and the way in which this manifests for you. Different people experience arthritis very differently, and this means that a unique treatment plan, devised by a specialist rheumatologist, is the most effective approach for those with all types of arthritis.
Peter Browne, Consultant Rheumatologist in Tralee & Limerick
If you have any form of arthritis, or have been experiencing pain in your joints and think that you may be developing an arthritic condition, it is important to visit your doctor and ask for a referral to a specialist. Working with an experienced rheumatologist will enable you to follow an appropriate plan in order to manage your pain and improve your flexibility and mobility, and this can help you to maintain an active lifestyle and reduce the impact of the condition on your life.
Dr Peter is a qualified rheumatologist who sees patients in Tralee and Limerick. To make an appointment, you will need to visit your GP or other healthcare professional, who can refer you to our rheumatology clinic. If you have a query, you can contact us online for more information.