Arthritis is a broad term for an inflammation of the joints, resulting from a loss of cartilage. When cartilage is worn down, the shock absorbers of your bones are defective, therefore causing them to rub together. Symptoms include pain, stiffness, and swelling in the joints, as well as inhibited movement of the affected area. The area around a joint may be warm, the skin may be red, and it can be particularly difficult to move the joint in the morning. There are more than 100 varieties of arthritis, the most common of which is osteoarthritis. If severe arthritis goes untreated, it can result in joint deformity.
Treating arthritis safely at home in the earliest stages is essential to alleviating pain and avoiding debilitating effects and ultimately high medical bills. Though the health care law will change the provisions for underwriting to insure people with arthritis in 2014, meaning you can finally get a health plan other than the high risk pool, you can also take measures to reduce your symptoms and be lower-risk. Arthritis is painful enough as it is, you may as well help yourself early on and attempt to reduce your overall spending for now and the future.
Many home treatments are simple lifestyle adjustments, including physical activity (obviously low-impact), and rehabilitative therapies. Being active may alleviate some fatigue and discomfort, reduce stiffness, and create stronger muscles and bones so your body can function better. Physical therapy that has been known to help arthritis includes water therapy, massage, application of hot or cold temperatures, and orthotics. Coordinate a plan with your doctor to ensure the most beneficial and safe approach to exercise and therapy.
How to Treat Arthritis at Home
Get More Active
Like many of the nation’s most common health problems, arthritis can be greatly helped by getting some movement in your life. Regular exercise promotes healthy functions of every aspect of your body, and improves joint, bone, and muscle strength which can be especially good for arthritis. Though in the past there was a belief that activity could exacerbate an arthritic condition, it is far from the truth. The only exception is if you are a runner with arthritic knees, changing your routine would be best advised to run shorter distances, switch it up with a bike or swim to take the impact off, and run on dirt trails rather than pavement.
Maintain or Lose Weight
Being overweight can increase your symptoms of arthritis, namely osteoarthritis, as it places more pressure on your knees, ankles, and other joints. If your doctor has recommended you shed a few pounds to alleviate your condition, use a safe, healthy method that works for you. Find ways to exercise multiple times per week, and adjust your eating habits to include more healthy ingredients, and you’ll be on your way to less pain relievers and potential complications. According to Roy Altman, MD, rheumatologist and professor of medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles, some people see their symptoms disappear if they lose 10 to 20 pounds. Now there’s a good incentive.
Buying your own equipment and learning exercises from a physical therapist, a reputable website, a book, or an instructional video can help reduce your pain immensely. Most of the therapeutic exercise products out there are fairly affordable, as well, like resistance bands, foam rolls, and exercise balls. Whether you go to a physical therapist or not, you should still practice these exercises every day to build strength and flexibility. Those who are extremely weak (not being able to get out of a chair) may be able to have a physical therapist come to their home and help them regain strength and mobility. Just make sure that the PT has experience in arthritis, not solely sports injuries, as it requires a much more delicate approach.
Submerging in water is one of the best ways to loosen your joints and muscles while getting movement and activity. You can do therapy exercises with your hands or feet in a sink or tub of warm water to ease the joints into motion. No matter how severe your arthritis, you can use a heated pool or whirlpool to stretch and do therapy exercises. In addition to freeing your joints and muscles up, the buoyancy of the water also helps lower the strain on your joints. Try a hot bath or shower if you can’t make it to a heated pool when you’re in pain to reduce some stiffness.
Swimming laps, if you are able to, is an ideal form of exercise for people with arthritis. No matter what your pace, it will be beneficial. Even if the water is cooler, this allows your muscles to become more pliable and movement will come more easily to those who experience chronic joint pain.
Gear Up for Winter
Warm clothing and blankets may help your arthritis in a variety of ways. For instance, wrapping a scarf (not too tight) around the elbow or knee joints when they ache may relieve some discomfort by adding warmth. Gloves may help people whose fingers are arthritic by keeping them warm, reducing inflammation, and providing comfort. If you want extra hand warmth, try electric gloves while you sleep. Down and electric blankets, thermal long underwear, and base layers can also warm the joints and therefore alleviate pain. Just layer up and cover the affected area with fabric rather than an OTC cream, as they can lead to further cartilage breakdown over time.
Make Practical Modifications
If you need to put different grips on tools, utensils, faucets, and doorknobs, go for it. It can reduce the stress on your joints, requiring little or no grip and turning action to function. Modify anything where you feel your arthritis could be helped: step stools to avoid stressful bending in low-level tasks like gardening or feeding the pets, reorganize to make items within reach, upgrade your closet with some Velcro (or slip-ons if you’re not in a orthopedic mood) in lieu of shoelaces, and use electric appliances (anything from toothbrushes to dishwashers) to avoid repetitive movements