Coping with Osteoarthritis Pain

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Most of us have experienced the aches and pains that come with getting older. Although joint pain can be considered “normal”, there are things you can do to lessen the pain and improve your ability to do daily activities. There are many people who have osteoarthritis, but they don’t have pain! Physical and occupational therapy can help you cope with osteoarthritis!

What is osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis is a degenerative condition that causes the cushion of cartilage between your joints to wear down. In addition to causing pain, it can also limit your ability to do daily activities. Your joints can start having arthritic changes as early as your 20s!

Osteoarthritis is an inflammatory condition that can affect any joint in your body. It’s often seen in the following areas:

  • neck
  • shoulders
  • hands
  • back
  • hips
  • knees

Below is a picture of arthritic deformities in the fingers. You can imagine how it would make daily tasks (opening a jar, holding a fork, carrying groceries, etc) difficult.

What are the symptoms of osteoarthritis?

The symptoms of osteoarthritis often include stiffness, swelling, and pain. Usually the symptoms occur in the morning or after being sedentary for long periods of time. Also, your pain may increase when you use the joint or even with weather changes. Sometimes your joints may feel weak or make a “popping” or “grinding” sound. Additionally, you might have inflammation in your joints. Inflammation can be increased by unhealthy lifestyle choices. For example, overusing the joint, poor diet, and a lack of exercise can make your inflammation worse.

How can osteoarthritis be treated?

Millions of people are affected by arthritis. Thankfully, there are ways you can combat the symptoms. Physical and occupational therapists can help improve your ability to do daily tasks such as: walking, bending, gripping, and reaching.

For example, if you were having trouble with your hand you could see a certified hand therapist. Most likely, you would learn ways to protect your finger and thumb joints from further damage. This could be done by implementing joint protection techniques, specific range of motion exercises, and/or adaptive equipment to make tasks easier.

Picture of adaptive equipment used to treat osteoarthritis in the thumb.

Here at Impact, we can also make you a splint to protect and support weak and/or painful joints.

Finally, anti-inflammatory lifestyle changes can help lessen the pain of arthritis. By getting 7-8 hours of sleep, managing stress, using a heating pad or cold pack, and weight loss can help to decrease your osteoarthritis pain.

Can nutrition help osteoarthritis?

YES! Eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats is another lifestyle change that can be helpful. Also, avoiding certain foods may help prevent a flare up of osteoarthritis pain.

The following is a list of the most common foods that can increase your arthritis pain:

How many of us eat these foods EVERY day and complain about joint pain?! Research has found that people with arthritis who avoided inflammatory triggers, such as these foods, experienced a significant improvement in their symptoms. Additionally, we have had many of our physical/ occupational therapy patients report decreased pain with eating less sugar.

Try to eliminate some of the above inflammatory foods and see if you notice a change in your joint pain!

Eat Better. Feel Better.

What now?

If you’re interested in learning ways to cope with osteoarthritis and would like to see how physical or occupational therapy can help you, contact us at Impact Rehab & Wellness.

– Kris Siegenthaler, OTR/L, MS, CLT, CHT

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