|Step 11: Living with osteoarthritis|
Even after a diagnosis of osteoarthritis, individuals can continue to lead a full and active life.
In addition to various self-treatments such as exercise and medical treatments such as injections into a joint, people can take other measures to live with osteoarthritis. These measures include:
By learning about osteoarthritis and educating oneself about its treatment, you can improve your lifestyle and have a new sense of purpose. Your health care provider is a helpful resource.
Some individuals explore other treatments, including unproven "remedies." While some of these options are safe, others can cause harm. It's prudent to explore the facts and risks before trying such options.
Joint protection begins with learning new ways to use the arthritic joint. Joint stress and strain can be limited by following a few simple rules.
For the upper body joints:
For the lower body joints:
Assistive devices can help people with arthritis to perform everyday tasks. Such devices include:
Many of these devices -- such as splints used to rest sore joints -- should be prescribed by a physician and fitted by an expert. (NOTE: The products above are listed for informational purposes only. Endorsement is not implied.)
Help from healthcare professionals
In addition to family physicians, internists, and rheumatologists (specialists in connective tissue disorders), many other healthcare professionals are available to help arthritis sufferers who have difficulties performing everyday activities. Such individuals are, in fact, essential to a comprehensive arthritis treatment plan. They include:
Physical therapists and nurses often have solutions for problems with daily activities (walking, dressing, climbing stairs, bathing), and they can offer ways to cope with disability. In addition, they can provide instruction about joint protection and suggest appropriate aids and assistive devices protection.
Occupational therapists are able to assess the home and recommend changes that can make it safer, more comfortable, and easier to get around.
Psychiatrist, psychologists, and social workers can help individuals to cope with stress, and they can advise both patients and families about the emotional adjustments needed for the new circumstances presented by arthritis.
Developing a self-management program
Self-management is perhaps the most significant factor in controlling osteoarthritis. A person who anticipates problems and makes lifestyle changes is better able to achieve control. In addition, sharing information with a physician will help to thwart potential difficulties and make the most of available treatments.
Arthritis education is key. Many programs are available through the Arthritis Foundation and other resources. For the best results, it is advisable to learn:
Another simple but effective tool is a personal journal. A small book or log can be used to record both good and bad responses to treatment. The journal can be brought to a physician and reviewed. In this way, the person and his or her physician can both cooperate in the treatment program and overcome any problems that may arise.