Everyday Tips and Tricks for Living With Osteoarthritis
Osteoarthritis and Depression
Managing any kind of chronic condition can be incredibly stressful on you, your family and friends, and your job. Arthritis is no exception.
All the well-meaning suggestions from friends and family may not be enough to combat the anxiety and depression you could find yourself faced with. Lack of sleep alone is enough to make anyone irritable, but add on chronic pain, job stress, relationship issues, or money problems and it brings the meaning of the word stress to a whole new level.
Taking care of your emotional health needs to become a priority if it isn’t already. Adjusting to life with osteoarthritis can feel very overwhelming, and it’s not as if your life was problem free before your diagnosis.
Arthritis happens when you’re trying to parent a teenager, maintain your job or navigate through personal relationships. It can also leave you with a sense of grief for a time when you were able to do things you’re no longer able to.
Carve out a small time every day to devote to stress relief. I know it may seem like you don’t have any to spare, but if you don’t take the time, you may find yourself in a worse position. For example, if I just power through when I know it’s too much, I will be exhausted for days. The conditions will never be perfect, just jump in and try something to lighten your spirit.
- Connect to a support group, either online or in person. It doesn’t necessarily need to be about managing health conditions, but it is a relief to talk to someone who really understands what you’re going through.
- Become a member of a spiritual community. Focusing on other people and what they may be going through can help keep you from feeling isolated.
- Rekindle a childhood hobby that brought you joy.
- Learn something new, like an instrument or another language. Keeping your mind occupied on something you enjoy will give you a rest from remembering how challenging it is to live with OA.
Osteoarthritis and Nutrition
Even if your diagnosis does not reflect an issue with inflammation, it doesn’t necessarily mean you are inflammation free. While osteoarthritis is not an inflammatory type of arthritis, you can still suffer from inflammatory symptoms.
Inflammatory conditions can impact your ability to properly digest the food you’re eating. Before you make any changes to your diet, you will definitely want to discuss it with your doctor so your vitamin levels can be monitored regularly.
If you have an unknown or untreated food sensitivity or allergy, you could be introducing an allergen into your system, which in turn triggers inflammation. If you are experiencing symptoms of a food sensitivity or allergy, like stomach upset, rashes or hives, be sure to share that information with your doctor and do everything you can to limit your exposure to that food.
Numerous reports have pointed to a connection between sugar, processed foods, and inflammation. Since nutritional science changes as we learn more, not to mention that people choose food for various health and cultural reasons, I don’t necessarily recommend shunning an entire type of food. That being said, when you’re battling pain 24/7, there are some days where the burger just won’t cut it and other days where I’m too tired to do anything else. Keep striving for balance and try to pay attention to your symptoms to learn what your body needs.
Maintaining good nutrition helps with overall health as we know. When you are managing OA, don’t make your body work harder than it has to. The extra weight adds unnecessary strain to your joints and muscles. Small dietary changes throughout the day can really add up!
There has been some research that points to certain foods and spices being especially helpful in easing inflammation, like cherries and turmeric. Remember, your body will tell you what is working and what isn’t. Track your symptoms as well as your diet and work with your own doctor for the best results for you.
Putting It All Together
Learning to live with osteoarthritis is a process. By examining the various ways your life is impacted by osteoarthritis, you’ll be able to find changes to make it
easier on your body and your soul. Some days it will work better than others, but just keep going and try not to get discouraged or overwhelmed.
At my last rheumatologist visit, we were reviewing how things were going since I began joint injection therapy about six months ago. I was very happy with the success of the treatment, but the procedures themselves are time-consuming and uncomfortable. However, I miss time from work, time from my family.
I basically said to him, "So this is it? I have to do these shots every five or six months or whenever I need them....indefinitely"’ and he said, "Well, you may become eligible for surgery at some point, but for now, yeah." I sighed, ‘That just sucks." He answered, "I get that a lot."
I’ve been managing osteoarthritis for ten years now, and I still walked out of that visit feeling as overwhelmed as I did when I first heard the diagnosis. I changed my schedule for the day, took some time to rest and reflect, and will try again tomorrow. So will you.
There will be times when communication will feel more stressful because of everything you’re dealing with, so don’t be afraid to seek professional help or support if you need it. Reach out to support sites online for new ideas, stories, and reassurances that you are not alone.