Living With Osteoarthritis
Living with osteoarthritis is like juggling the aspects of your life with the extra weight of chronic pain and fatigue affecting each one.
Your family, job, friends, significant other, health, and stress management strategies: each one demands your attention, and when one becomes shaky it’s easy for the others to follow suit.
What I find overarching in every aspect of living with osteoarthritis is the importance of communication. You will need to learn how to listen to your body and communicate your needs to others around you.
I often need to remember that communication is not just about expressing yourself.
How It Can Affect Our Lives
The pain associated with arthritis can be hard to accept because of some of the lifestyle changes that must be made to accommodate living with osteoarthritis.
One of the most difficult adjustments is to the fact of the matter is people with osteoarthritis are not going to be able to be as active as they once were.
The pain associated with arthritis can also negatively affect one in other ways besides physically. It can have a tremendous impact on the mental health and social life of an individual.
Research has shown that the pain and psychological effects of arthritis can combine into a perpetual cycle, making it even harder to live with the condition.
Mood and anxiety disorders occur with greater frequency among persons with arthritis than those without arthritis across diverse countries.
Why Communication and Osteoarthritis Go Hand-In-Hand
Learning how to manage osteoarthritis with your family can be complicated because family relationships are, in fact, often complicated. Your family sees you at your best and your worst, and it’s easy to lose your temper with them when you’re frustrated.
The trick is trying not to take it out on anyone, and making amends when you do. Staying on top of your stress management strategies will help keep your emotions in a healthy place, and communicating with your family about how they can help also includes telling them what you don’t find helpful.
Having these conversations when everyone is rested, fed, and not in a strained mood is ideal so you can keep the stress to a minimum.
Being assertive about your health decisions can sometimes lead to having your choices on the table for discussion from many people around you. While most likely well-intentioned, you still need to do what’s best for you.
Stick to what you’re trying and communicate with your doctor on what your unique plan should look like, and let others’ opinions roll off.
We Feel Pain All The Time From Our Osteoarthritis
Pain management is going to be an integral part of your arthritis journey, and there are no shortages of options to consider.
One thing I’ve learned is always to pay attention to any new pain and not just write it off as “arthritis” and keep pushing through. Your arthritis may be weakening surrounding ligaments and muscles, leaving you prone to injury more quickly than before.
I was confident that new hip pain was just arthritis in my hip that I could do nothing about, only to learn it was severe osteoarthritis in my lower spine with disc degeneration and disfigurement.
There are osteoarthritis medications you can get prescribed from your doctor to help with the stiffness and pain, but I’ve found that the times of being pain-free are few and far between.
In addition to taking anti-inflammatory medication and rounds of steroids to reduce inflammation, I also work hard to improve my diet, gentle exercise when I’m able to, take Epsom salt baths frequently, and have found some acupuncture helpful.
Each of these strategies has their drawbacks and benefits that you need to decide for yourself. Look for activities that improve your mood, like watching comedies with friends, to relaxing your body by taking a baby goat yoga class. (Seriously, that’s a thing, and I’m so eager to try it!)
One last piece of advice when it comes to prescription medications. Anti-inflammatory medication needs to be monitored to make sure it doesn’t raise your blood pressure or have any other adverse effects.
Pain medication can be a huge help, just always remember to take it as directed to avoid any problems.
Next page: What is it like working with osteoarthritis, lifestyle changes that people living with osteoarthritis can make including exercise tips, nutrition tips, and dealing with flare-ups.