Have arthritis?

How to navigate the aches and pains

Living with osteoarthritis can be a pain — literally. And finding relief for those stiff, achy joints can be a challenge.

But Katherine Finn, DO, a rheumatologist at Rush, believes people with osteoarthritis can do a lot to ease their pain. Here are her feel-better suggestions for living with arthritis:

Get going. Regular exercise is good for arthritis. “You’re actually building the muscles that help protect the joint, and the result is less pain,” Finn says. It’s a mood-lifter too. “You’re getting those endorphins flowing, and you just feel better,” she says. Your doctor can help you get started safely.

Ditch unwanted pounds. “Losing extra weight can help take some of the stress off joints and relieve some of the pain,” Finn says. But skip the crash diets, she says. Instead, adopt healthy habits you can sustain.

Find a medicine for you. Over-the-counter pain medications can help with arthritis. However, you should talk to your doctor about which drug is right for you — especially if you have other medical problems, Finn says. “The other thing to keep in mind is that each person is different,” she adds. “While acetaminophen may work wonderfully for one person, it may do nothing for someone else.”

Get your ZZZs. It’s harder to tolerate pain when you’re tired. “If you’re not getting restorative rest, you’re probably going to have a more heightened sense of pain,” Finn explains. Something keeping you up at night? Tell your doctor.

Consider physical therapy. If you have severe arthritis, therapy directed at your bothersome joint might help you move better and keep further damage at bay.

Set reasonable goals. Do you want to go back to walking the dog or taking long strolls with your spouse — things you stopped doing because of your arthritis? Work with your doctor to come up with some goals and a plan for achieving them.

Learn a little more. Consider taking a class to learn more about arthritis or joining a support group for people with the disease. You might even meet new friends. “For an individual with arthritis, I think it is comforting to know that there are plenty of others out there with the same condition, and there are plenty of things you can do,” Finn says.
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