Updated: Oct 28, 2020
Arthritis affects over 50 million adults - if you don't have it, there is a chance you know someone who does. It's a disease that many baby boomers are dealing with as they enter their retirement years (myself included!). Everyone’s experience is very unique, and arthritis can affect individuals differently. I am by no means a medical practitioner, nor claim to be, but it is a common and painful issue I wanted to discuss. Hopefully, this blog can provide helpful information for those living with arthritis.
Arthritis is not actually a singular disease that is easily defined. It's a general term to describe joint pain or joint disease, affecting knees, elbows, back, hands, fingers, and many other parts of the body. The symptoms typically include swelling, pain, stiffness, and mobility issues. It is a very painful disease. I know because I personally have arthritis in my knees, lower back, elbows. It can make it hard to move around, and mornings seem to be the worst! The golden years are not as golden as I thought - but that's life, all you can do is keep going!
The 2 most common types of arthritis are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, which is inflammation of one or multiple joints. Cartilage is a firm, flexible tissue in your joints that absorbs the pressure created when you move or put stress on your joints, like the shock absorber in your car. It would be a rough ride without them, so when the cartilage is worn down, it causes some form of arthritis.
The only way to definitively know if you have arthritis is to see a doctor. Fortunately, you can do things to ease the symptoms of arthritis, and you don't have to live in constant pain. You may need to try a few different things to see what works for you. Some people find heating pads work; others prefer ice packs. Over the counter medications like acetaminophen, e.g., Tylenol could provide relief as well as menthol creams. With extreme pain, your doctor may prescribe cortisone and recommend specific exercises. In some cases, surgery may be the most effective treatment option and is most commonly used to treat arthritis of the hips and knees.
Unfortunately, there isn't a one-fits-all cure; all we can really do is treat the symptoms as best we can. For me, I found there were helpful lifestyle changes that reduced my pain and stiffness. Weight loss improved the pain in my knees, which makes sense – it's less weight your knees are carrying around. I also found that I am very stiff when I sit for long periods of time, so I do some exercises to loosen up. Truthfully, I have to get down to do it, but whatever works, right?
There are also many arthritis societies out there that provide lots of information on treatments and pain management. I recommend checking these out and speaking to your doctor to help you deal with your arthritis.
If you have arthritis, I'd love to hear any pain management tips and tricks you have found helpful! Please share in the comments below.
All the best!
P.S Exercise is an effective way to help improve mobility. Check out my blog post on exercise for seniors to get some ideas for low-impact exercises you can do at home.