Osteoarthritis Treatment Self Care

Osteoarthritis occurs when cartilage (a type of tissue) breaks down around joints, causing the bones to rub against one another. The rubbing of bones across other bones creates pain and makes movement more difficult. Like many other conditions, the severity and location of osteoarthritis can vary. While it can be mild or severe, osteoarthritis may also present in one place in the body or in multiple locations throughout the body.

Osteoarthritis sufferers don’t always have to live with the pain that comes from the condition. In addition to taking the medications prescribed by a doctor and following your doctor’s osteoarthritis treatment instructions, patients can practice a number of self-care methods and coping techniques.

Self-Care Methods

Many self-care methods for osteoarthritis simply involve getting healthier and taking care of your body, which can help with osteoarthritis and a number of other conditions.

Follow these self-care techniques to help with osteoarthritis symptoms:

  • Get regular exercise: While osteoarthritis patients should consult a doctor before beginning any exercise plan, regular exercise that doesn’t involve high impact or too much stress can be very helpful. The best types of exercise for osteoarthritis sufferers include:
    • tai chi
    • walking
    • water exercises.

Working out with a physical therapist can also be a good option. Keep in mind that osteoarthritis patients should avoid exercise that contains any jerking and bouncing movements.

  • Maintain a healthy weight: Because extra weight puts extra strain on your joints, being even a few pounds overweight can severely worsen osteoarthritis symptoms and pain. To maintain a healthy weight, eat a health diet, including lots of fruit, vegetables and fiber, and exercise regularly. While no one specific diet is designed for osteoarthritis sufferers, eating a balanced diet with food from all food groups is a good idea. Ask your doctor if you should add any supplements or vitamins to your healthy diet.
  • Apply heat or cold to osteoarthritis pain sites: While heat can ease pain and relax the muscles, it can also increase blood flow to any area to which it is applied. Heat packs, heating pads, hot showers and hot baths are all great ways to apply heat to parts of the body pained by osteoarthritis. Many osteoarthritis sufferers find it helpful to use heat therapy before exercising. Applying cold can numb or dull pain from osteoarthritis. Use cold compresses to reduce or ease muscle spasms.
  • Wear comfortable shoes with enough support: Your shoes support your entire body and distribute your weight. Wearing uncomfortable shoes or shoes that don’t provide support can worsen osteoarthritis pain.
  • Relaxation techniques and visualization: Finding ways to relax or practicing visualization can take your focus off of osteoarthritis pain.

Osteoarthritis Coping Skills

Here are some other ways people with osteoarthritis can reduce their pain and increase their mobility. The most important thing to remember is that simply knowing your own limits and not putting too much stress on yourself can help a great deal.

Some other good ideas include:

  • keeping good posture
  • staying positive
  • taking frequent breaks and relaxing when performing strenuous activities
  • using braces and other devices to assist you.

Your doctor or physical therapist can give you other advice that may help by showing you specific techniques that can keep you from stressing muscles affected by osteoarthritis.

Resources

Mayo Clinic (2006). Osteoarthritis Coping Skills. Retrieved October 10, 2007, from the Mayo Clinic Web site: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/osteoarthritis/

Mayo Clinic (2006). Osteoarthritis Self-Care. Retrieved October 10, 2007, from the Mayo Clinic Web site: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/osteoarthritis/