Living with arthritis involves more than popping a pill when your joints start to ache. You must make key changes to your lifestyle and take treatment into your own hands.
If you have arthritis, it may hurt to walk or even do easy chores like washing the dishes. It is not only pain that gets in your way, but also fatigue.
Like many arthritis patients, you may find that drugs just don't cut it when it comes to dealing with the pain and fatigue of your condition. Luckily, there are a number of ways to treat your symptoms naturally at home or on your own time.
Exercise, diet, physical therapy and mind-body techniques all can play a role in your fight against arthritis pain and fatigue.
This article explains some of these alternative and complementary treatments used by countless arthritis patients around the world.
Dealing with Pain the Natural Way
Pain is the main symptom of arthritis. Levels of pain differ from patient to patient, but nobody wants to live in a state of pain.
Arthritis patients take both over-the-counter and prescription drugs to manage pain. But medications are not enough for everyone. In some cases, patients do not even respond to the drugs they are taking.
If you are dealing with this issue, you may want to try some of the natural and alternative therapies.
Get some exercise
Exercise is good for everyone, arthritis or not. But if you do have arthritis, exercise plays a key role in treatment.
Over time, exercise can improve pain. In addition, regular exercise can increase flexibility and reduce stiffness, making it easier to stay active and on the go.
There are three main types of exercise that help arthritis patients: flexibility exercises, strengthening exercises and aerobic exercises.
Exercising for your arthritis is not the same as training for a sports team. Listen to your body. If a physical activity hurts, then stop or do an activity that is not so intense.
Ask your doctor what exercises are right for you. With the help of your doctor and a physical therapist, you can lower pain and improve your life.
Stretching and range-of-motion exercises can improve the flexibility of your joints and muscles, which can protect you from injury and further pain.
Range-of-motion exercises involve gently bending and extending your joints as far as they can comfortably go. These can be done 5 to 10 times a day in the comfort of your home or at work.
Stretching is another simple activity you can easily fit into your daily schedule.
Yoga is an activity that involves both stretching and range-of-motion exercises.
Exercises that build your muscles help take stress off your painful joints while also giving them more support.
Weightlifting is one example of strengthening exercises. But be careful when lifting weights; too much weight can hurt your joints even more.
Ask your doctor which strengthening exercises are safe and helpful for you.
Aerobic exercises do not directly deal with pain, but they can give you the mood and energy boost you need to stay active.
Aerobic exercise is also a great way to lose weight. Cutting out excess weight can take stress off of your painful joints.
Examples of aerobic exercise include walking, bicycling, aerobic dance and water exercises. You can also get your aerobic exercise through using equipment like treadmills and stationary bikes.
Eat a healthy diet
A healthy diet can help arthritis patients in a few ways.
First, healthy foods are full of nutrients that give you energy. Without enough energy, you would not be able to do those exercises that reduce pain.
A healthy diet also helps you maintain or lose weight. If you are overweight or obese, you are adding stress to already strained and painful joints.
Lastly, certain unhealthy foods can lead to inflammation - the cause of many forms of arthritis, including rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and ankylosing spondylitis. Avoiding certain foods can help prevent the pain and stiffness of inflammation.
Acupuncture is a technique that involves sticking very fine needles into the skin at specific points around the body.
While scientists are still not quite sure how acupuncture affects the body, many arthritis patients swear it helps them manage pain. Even a limited amount of studies have shown that acupuncture may reduce pain in some people.
Getting the occasional massage will not eliminate your pain. However, it can temporarily relieve some of your pain and reduce stress.
Some professional massage therapists can design massages specifically geared towards arthritis patients.
As with acupuncture, scientists are not sure if and how traditional medicines help arthritis patients. Yet many patients use these ancient techniques in combination with modern medicine.
While a few studies have given limited support of traditional medicine, more research is needed before such treatments can be considered safe and effective.
Dealing with Fatigue the Natural Way
Generally, we think of arthritis as a disease that causes pain and stiffness. But it does more than that. Arthritis can affect many aspects of your life. Dealing with the disease can cause stress, lead to depression and wear you thin.
Everyone gets exhausted from time to time. Our busy lives require so much of us that it may seem like we are always tired and overworked. But chronic fatigue is something different.
While fatigue may make you feel sleepy, it is also more than sleepiness. If you are fatigued, you may not feel driven to do anything.
Many people with arthritis suffer from chronic fatigue. In fact, it is one of the most common symptoms.
For arthritis patients, fatigue can make it harder to focus and cope with pain. As such, dealing with your fatigue will not only make you feel better in general, but also help you deal with your pain.
If you are an arthritis patient, here are some natural ways to cope with fatigue.
Identify the causes of your fatigue
Fatigue is a difficult thing to measure. However, it is possible to assess its impact on your daily life and state of mind.
Your fatigue may be caused by physical factors, such as the joint pain you experience on a daily basis.
Your fatigue may stem from emotional factors. Depression, stress and anxiety - all of which are common in patients with chronic pain - can lead to fatigue.
It also may be the result of environmental factors. Your job may be wearing you down. Temperature changes could be to blame. Living in a noisy city could be making it hard to relax your mind.
Figuring out the core causes of your fatigue is the first step to dealing with the condition.
Change your schedule
Good sleep is crucial in your fight against fatigue. In order to get a good night's rest, many arthritis patients change their daily schedule. If possible, some patients start their day a little later, reducing the effects of morning stiffness and allowing them to get some extra sleep.
Other patients choose to take a nap in the afternoon. This gives them the opportunity to avoid exhaustion before completing their daily tasks and activities.
Get a good night's rest
Changing your schedule is not the only way to get a good night's sleep. If you want to sleep well, it may be wise to avoid caffeine, alcohol and drugs, especially near bedtime.
Depression and stress can make it hard to sleep as well. Dealing with these mental conditions may help you sleep better and reduce fatigue.
Get active, stay active
For arthritis patients, the main goal of exercise is to relieve pain and stiffness. However, exercise can do a great deal for your fatigue.
When you exercise, your body releases chemicals called endorphins. These chemicals do wonders for our mind and body. Most importantly, endorphins give us more energy and a sense of well-being.
Exercise also improves muscle mass and strength, which makes it easier to move around.
Eating is how we get our energy. If you eat poorly, your body will not get the energy it needs to function at full force. Nourish your body through healthy foods.
Choose foods like nuts, fruits, vegetables, fortified cereals and whole grains. These foods are filled with omega-3 fatty acids and B vitamins, which make the energy in food usable by the body.
It is also important to get energy at the very beginning of the day. Start your morning with breakfast. Eating a healthy breakfast boosts your energy and makes it easier to concentrate.
Try some mind-body therapy
Mind-body exercises do not work for everyone, but they are worth a try. Many arthritis patients swear by these techniques.
Relaxation, imagery therapy and biofeedback may help you deal with the mental aspects of your condition - such as depression and stress - that turn into the physical symptoms of pain and fatigue.
Mindfulness-based stress reduction is another mind-body therapy that many arthritis patients use.