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Everyday Arthritis Relief

Sep. 18, 2019

Arthritis pain and stiffness that stem from joint inflammation, muscle strain and fatigue don’t need to keep you from activities you love. These simple strategies can help you keep discomfort in check:

Move it. Contrary to how your body may feel, exercise actually helps arthritis pain, increases range of motion and strengthens muscles around joints. “Try to be active every day. Low-impact exercises like walking, cycling, water aerobics or tai chi are great options,” said Dr. Karthik Jonna, an orthopedic surgeon at Houston Methodist.

Lose it. Eating right and shedding excess pounds takes undue stress off your joints. A low-fat diet, such as the DASH diet, based on National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute-sponsored research, may decrease your body’s inflammatory response — reducing joint inflammation.

Go cold, go warm. Applying cold packs or warm compresses can relieve pain and stiffness. Cold packs work best within the first 24 hours of an injury or flare-up. Then try heat. A warm shower can also provide some relief.

Rub it in. Massage eases pain and stiffness by helping your body produce painkilling endorphins. Look for a trustworthy massage therapist who has experience with arthritis sufferers.

Kick your pumps to the curb. Instead, opt for well-cushioned, well-fitting supportive shoes that give your feet and toes plenty of room.

Brace yourself. Braces for elbows, wrists, knees and other joints can take a load off your aching joints. “Check with your health care provider to see whether a brace might benefit you,” Jonna said.

Assess your space. Change your home to make it more user-friendly. Add a shower chair, install rails near the toilet, use a long-handled shoe horn and special grips to open jars and peel vegetables. An occupational therapist can make suggestions and help you find the items you need.

Stop smoking. Smokers face greater bone fracture risks because smoking can reduce bone mass. It can also lengthen your recovery time if you have joint surgery. Look into quit-smoking aids to kick the habit.

Boost your mood. Counteract stress and the negative mental effects of arthritis pain with relaxation techniques — meditation, yoga or deep breathing. In addition, cognitive behavioral therapy may help you overcome feelings of helplessness.

Follow doctor’s orders. “Take arthritis medicine as directed. If the drug causes unwanted side effects, don’t stop taking it before talking with your provider,” Jonna explained. “The same goes for prescriptions you may feel aren’t working. Your provider can change your medicine or make other suggestions.”