The challenges of daily life can be tough enough, but when arthritis is added into the mix, things can become even more difficult. This potentially debilitating condition affects around 10 million of us in the UK, and while it’s more common in older people, it can strike at any age. Although it’s not terminal, the condition is certainly life changing. It can cause pain, stiffness and inflammation in your joints, make movement more difficult and lead to weakness and muscle wastage. Being diagnosed with arthritis can be a big shock and if you recently found out you have this medical problem, you’re no doubt wondering how it will affect your day-to-day existence. To find out more about this, keep reading.
Can you still work?
One of the first fears many people have when they are diagnosed with arthritis is that they will have to stop working. The good news is, thanks to improved treatments and equality laws, many sufferers of the condition find they can carry on in their roles. Of course, whether or not you’re able to continue in employment will depend on the sort of work you do and the severity of your arthritis. There are lots of incentives to keep your job though. For example, as well as helping you to maintain your income, staying in work could make you feel healthier and happier. There’s no denying the fact that you might find work more difficult, but your employer should provide you with the support you need.
Unfortunately, in some cases, arthritis becomes so severe that it prevents people from keeping their jobs. If you find yourself in this position, it’s important to investigate the state benefits that you may be entitled to claim.
How will it affect everyday tasks?
Even if you can still work, you might need to rethink the ways you approach a range of everyday tasks if you’re to successfully manage your arthritis. This could mean learning new methods of carrying out even seemingly simple actions. For example, you might benefit from using larger, stronger joints rather than smaller, more fragile ones. When you’re pushing doors, for instance, try using your shoulder rather than your hands, and when possible use your forearms to pick things up. Also, try to avoid gripping objects too tightly, and don’t pick things up if you don’t have to. Simple adjustments, like sliding heavy pans along a kitchen unit rather than lifting them, can help you to protect your joints.
Avoid sitting in the same position all day too, and try to minimise any movements and positions that tend to make you stiff. It also helps to plan your days so that you do harder tasks at times when you tend to feel less sore or stiff.
At first, these changes may seem like a major inconvenience, but you should find you get used to them over time.
Is it OK to exercise?
Especially if you enjoy exercise, you might be worried that your condition will stop you from being active. It’s certainly the case that the pain associated with arthritis can put people off exercise. However, as long as you choose the right type and level of exertion, physical activity won’t make your arthritis worse. In fact, regular exercise can help to improve your joint mobility and range of movement, increase your strength and enhance your energy levels. Just make sure you always stretch before and after these sessions, and don’t be tempted to overexert yourself.
If you’re not sure which exercises to do, ask your GP or a physiotherapist. Good examples can include walking, swimming, cycling, yoga, Pilates, tai chi and dancing. Activities like gardening and housework can also have a positive impact on your health.
Should you change your diet?
Arthritis can also have an impact on the foods you eat. There’s no definite connection between particular types of food and arthritis flare-ups, but certain products may help to reduce inflammation and pain. For example, there is some evidence that eating oily fish can reduce the symptoms of inflammatory arthritis. It’s also really important that you have a healthy, balanced diet that provides you with all the nutrients you need. This should be high in starch, fibre, fruit and vegetables, and low in fatty foods, salt and added sugars.
If you’re overweight, it’s worthwhile changing your eating habits to help you slim down. Bear in mind that too much weight can put extra strain on your joints, especially those in your feet, ankles, knees and hips, and this can make your arthritis worse.
Will modifying your home help?
To make your daily life easier, you might benefit from modifying your home. On the most basic level, try to keep most of the things you need on a regular basis, like certain food and clothes, within easy reach. It helps to have access to a range of useful electrical gadgets in your kitchen too, like automatic tin openers, to help you prepare food, and you might want to add a bar stool to this room so that you can take the weight off your feet when you cook. It’s also worth investing in long-handled tools for cleaning and picking things up, and consider fitting levers to your taps.
Meanwhile, adjustable chairs and beds can make getting into and out of your sitting and sleeping positions simpler. Our designs also feature massage settings that can help to ease the symptoms of arthritis. Other useful aids include walk-in showers or baths, raised toilet seats and stair lifts. By making your home more comfortable and convenient in these ways, you should find it easier to cope with the challenges that your condition presents.
There’s no point in burying your head in the sand when you are diagnosed with arthritis. Your life will change, and you need to be ready for this. However, by getting the medical help you need and by following the right advice, you stand a better chance of controlling your symptoms while still benefiting from a good quality of life.