Since March, many people with arthritis have gone without physical therapy or injections at their doctor’s office to relieve pain. Those scheduled for joint replacement surgery had their procedure postponed. People with arthritis can adopt good practices to help lessen pain while they wait for treatment.
While staying at home, people may have gotten into the habit of watching a lot of TV or spending hours online. In the current pandemic climate, that’s understandable. But it’s good for those who have arthritis to engage in mild exercise or take a walk, if they can. If you sit around too much, your joints can become stiff and your muscles get deconditioned. This puts more stress on an arthritic knee or hip, and that can cause more pain.
For those binge-watching television shows or working in front of a computer most of the day, I recommend getting up every half hour and walking around for at least five minutes. In addition to helping to prevent stiff joints, it helps avoid back pain that comes from sitting too much.
Here are some more tips to help manage arthritis at home:
- Be proactive. Do mild exercises to strengthen the muscles around an arthritic joint. For example, straight leg raises from a lying down or sitting position are a simple exercise that most people can do to strengthen the muscles around their knee.
- Engage in non-impact activities, such as riding a stationary exercise bicycle or taking a safe walk outside.
- Even at home, be careful not to overdo physical activities. People with less severe arthritis may want to go on a cleaning spree or declutter a closet, but too much bending, kneeling, and lifting could make joint pain worse.
- If climbing up and down stairs causes pain, cut back. Be mindful of how you’re moving and take one step at a time if it helps.
- Take an over-the-counter pain medication unless it causes stomach or other problems. If you have a prescription, make sure you follow your doctor’s instructions.
- Use cold or heat to make a joint feel better. However, if a joint is hot and swollen, make sure you use a cold pack. Put a cloth or thin towel under the cold pack. Never put ice directly on your skin.
- Use an aid, such as cane, when needed to relieve pressure on your knee or hip.
- Try to maintain a healthy diet. Keeping your weight down avoids stress on a joint.
- Try meditation, mindful breathing, or progressive relaxation to help relieve stress and feel better. A number of apps are available for this.
- Make sure there are no hazards in your home that could lead to a fall. Use a cane if needed for better stability, make sure rugs are secured to the floor, maintain good lighting and be careful if you get out of bed in the middle of the night. Grab bars in the bathroom and other devices can make it easier to perform activities of daily living with an arthritic joint.
- Try to maintain a positive attitude. Remember, we are all in this together. The pandemic will end eventually, and we will get through this.
To see a video I made with exercise tips, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=niOY8GusK4o