The intensity of osteoarthritis pain varies from person to person and can range from mild to severe.1 Even though pain isn’t always curable, you and your doctor can work together to develop a comprehensive pain management plan that will bring you relief.
Some tips to help manage symptoms are:2
Don’t place strain on affected joints
Make sure your neck and back are properly supported while sitting or sleeping, and adjust furniture, such as raising a chair or toilet seat to avoid movements that exacerbate symptoms.
Avoid repetitive joint motions
Don’t do activities which repeatedly strain the joint, especially frequent bending.
Lose weight if required
Weight loss is especially important for weight-bearing joints.
Exercise every day
Not only will appropriate activities decrease osteoarthritis pain, they can improve motion and function.
Try orthotic devices
These support (“assistive”) devices, such as a knee brace or shoe insert, can help by taking weight off joints.
1. Arthritis Foundation. Sources of Arthritis pain.
http://www.arthritis.org/living-with-arthritis/pain-management/understanding/types-of- pain.php. Last accessed 23/06/17.
2. American College of Rheumatology. Diseases and conditions Osteoarthritis.
https://www.rheumatology.org/i-am-a/patient- caregiver/diseases-conditions/osteoarthritis. Last accessed 23/06/17
Eating a healthy, balanced diet is best for your overall health but can also help manage osteoarthritis. Importantly, balanced nutrition can also allow you to lose weight if needed, which in turn can help relieve osteoarthritis symptoms.
In addition to a balanced diet, certain foods have been shown to fight inflammation, strengthen bones and boost the immune system. Adding these foods to your diet may help ease osteoarthritis symptoms:1
Omega-3-rich fish such as salmon, tuna, mackerel and herring.
Oils such as extra virgin olive oil, avocado, and walnut oils are loaded with heart-healthy fats, as well as oleocanthal, which has properties similar to non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory drugs.
A registered dietitian can offer personalised guidance to help you lose weight and pick osteoarthritis friendly foods.
1. Arthritis Foundation. Arthritis Diet.
http://www.arthritis.org/living-with-arthritis/arthritis-diet/. Last accessed 23/06/17.
2. Rayman MP. Diet, nutrition and osteoarthritis. BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders. 2015;16:S1-S7.
3. Arthritis Foundation. Need nutrition help?
http://www.arthritis.org/living-with-arthritis/arthritis-diet/healthy-eating/registered-dietitian.php. Last accessed 23/06/17
Regular physical activity can help improve osteoarthritis pain, function, mood, and quality of life without making symptoms worse. Here are some example exercises that could help:
Aerobic or “cardio” exercises:1
Try an activity that is moderate or vigorous intensity but do not twist or "pound" your joints too much.
Moderate aerobic activities include:
- Brisk Walking.
- Mowing the grass, heavy yard work.
- Doubles tennis.
Vigorous intensity activities include:
- Singles tennis.
- Jumping rope.
- Conditioning Machines (e.g., stair climbers, elliptical, stationary bike).
Muscle strengthening activities:
Having strong muscles takes some of the pressure off joints. Examples include:
- Lifting weights using machines, dumbbells, or weight cuffs.
- Working with resistance bands.
- Using your own bodyweight as resistance (e.g. push-ups, sit ups).
- Heavy gardening (e.g. digging).
Some additional recommendations are to improve your balance to avoid falls by doing activities like Tai Chi, and to stay flexible by performing flexibility exercises to help reduce stiffness.
The most important thing to remember is to find out what works best for you.
1. Centers for disease control and prevention. Physical Activity for Arthritis.
https://www.cdc.gov/arthritis/basics/physical-activity-overview.html. Last accessed 23/06/17.
The support of friends and family members is vital for minimising the effect of osteoarthritis on your well-being and your ability to perform daily activities.1
It is very important to take care of your mental health, people with osteoarthritis often suffer from anxiety and depression and there is no shame in asking for help.2,3
If you feel you would benefit from support, talk to your doctor or seek the help of osteoarthritis support groups and networks in your community.
1. International osteoporosis foundation. Living with osteoarthritis.
https://www.iofbonehealth.org/living-osteoarthritis. Last accessed 23/06/17.
2. Helminen E. Determinants of pain and
functioning in knee osteoarthritis:
a one-year prospective study. Clinical Rehabilitation
2016, Vol. 30(9) 890–900.
3.Stubbs B. Prevalence of depressive symptoms and anxiety in osteoarthritis: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Age and Ageing. 2016; 45: 228–235.
Here are some common myths about osteoarthritis:1
You can't or shouldn't exercise once you've got osteoarthritis.
The Truth: You should be physically active when you have arthritis. Not only will appropriate activities decrease your osteoarthritis pain, they can improve range of motion, function, and reduce disability.
Unless you lose a lot of weight, your osteoarthritis symptoms will not improve.
The Truth: Being overweight puts extra strain on your joints, 1 pound of weight is equal to 4 pounds of pressure on your knees, increasing the likelihood that you will develop osteoarthritis and increasing the rate at which osteoarthritis will progress. So even a small weight loss can produce drastic changes, reducing osteoarthritis symptoms and pain.
Arthritis is inevitable as I age.
The Truth: The risk of developing osteoarthritis does increase with age, but there are many things such as exercise, weight management, resting after joint-related injuries, and consulting with your doctor to come up with a prevention strategy, that you can do to lower your risk.
I don’t need to see a doctor for joint pain.
The Truth: It is incorrect to assume that nothing can be done to manage osteoarthritis symptoms or that surgery is the only option. Exercise, weight loss, pain management techniques, alternative therapies, and medications (both prescription and over the counter) are all ways that joint pain can be managed. Consulting a doctor is the best way to find out how to best manage joint pain.
My parent had osteoarthritis, so I will get it too.
The Truth: While your chances of developing osteoarthritis are greater if one of your parents had it, it is not definite. Regularly exercising and maintaining a healthy weight can decrease your risk of developing osteoarthritis, or slow progression if you already have osteoarthritis.
1. Osteoarthritis action alliance. Myths about osteoarthritis.
https://oaaction.unc.edu/files/2014/10/5.-Myths-about-Osteoarthritis-Lecturette-FINAL.pdf. Last accessed 23/06/17.
WHAT I NEED TO REMEMBER
... is best for your overall health but can also help manage osteoarthritis
... improve osteoarthritis pain, function, mood, and quality of life without making symptoms worse
... members is vital for minimising the effect of osteoarthritis on your well-being and your ability to perform daily activities1