It's no secret that the hardest part about having arthritis is learning to live with pain. Inflammation causes joints to ache and burn. Muscles tense up making movement difficult. Sometimes the pain is poorly understood and gets put in the frustrating catch-all basket of "fibromyalgia." Whatever the nature or cause, adequately addressing pain associated with arthritis is a major part of living with the condition, which affects 1 in 6 New Zealanders over the age of 15, according to experts. So here are some tips for doing so:
Research shows that consistent strength-building and stretching exercises greatly contribute to reduced pain. An active lifestyle helps strengthen your muscles, which reduces pressure on your joints. It can also reduce stress and improve sleep. But be careful not to over-do it. Pacing yourself and breaking up repetitive activities will help prevent exercise from contributing to your pain. If you're unsure how to go about it in a productive way, talk to your physical or occupational therapist.
2. Relaxation and Meditation
Some studies have shown mindfulness meditation to reduce physical pain by up to 90 percent. Not sure how to meditate? Relaxing, deep-breathing, and taking a hot bath can also help to reduce stress and muscle tension.
When used in combination with other therapies, medications can be very effective at treating chronic pain. Talk to your doctor about which pain reliever is right for you.
4. Heat and Cold
Heat relaxes muscles and stimulates blood circulation while cold can numb painful areas and reduce swelling. Taking a warm bath or sauna, or using cold treatments such as an ice pack during a flare up, can effectively reduce pain. You can alternate warm and cold treatments throughout the day, and find the combination that's right for you.
5. Massage and Acupuncture
The right paramedical expert with experience dealing with people affected by arthritis can do a world of good when its comes to chronic pain. Do a quick Google search for experts in your area.
6. Talk About Your Pain
There's no need to share more than you feel comfortable, but experts agree that its helpful to discuss your physical discomfort with loved ones. Doing so can keep you from feeling that you're alone with your pain, and it can also prevent loved ones from taking offence if, for example, you get stressed and irritable during flare-ups.
Remember that pain doesn't need to rule your life, and finding the right combination of treatments can greatly improve your experience of arthritis.