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How to Take Care of Yourself If You Have Arthritis?

If you have pain, stiffness or swelling in or around a joint for more than two weeks, it's time to see your doctor. These symptoms can develop suddenly or slowly. Only a doctor can tell if it's arthritis. But "you have arthritis" is not a diagnosis. Ask for a specific diagnosis of the type of arthritis you have. There are more than 100 types, each of which has different treatments. Getting the right treatment requires getting the right diagnosis.

The earlier an accurate diagnosis is made and treatment started, the better. Early treatment can often mean less joint damage and less pain. Your doctor may recommend a combination of treatments that may include medication, weight management, exercise, use of heat or cold, and methods to protect your joints from further damage. See your doctor for an early diagnosis and immediate treatment plan! In addition, you need to pay attention to your health condition and take care of yourself so that you may not suffer from arthritis as much as you would otherwise:

  • Take care of your joints

You need to avoid excess stress on your joints. Use larger or stronger joints to carry things. Assistive devices can make tasks at home and work easier. Staying close to your recommended weight also helps relieve damaging pressure on hips and knees.

  • Exercise

Exercise helps lessen pain, increases range of movement, reduces fatigue and helps you feel better overall. Your doctor, a physical therapist, or other specially trained health professionals can show you range-of-motion exercises and strengthening exercises that are good for arthritis. The Arthritis Foundation also offers water exercise and other classes. Contact your local office for details.

Choose your favorite spots (indoors and out) and make plans to walk them at least once a week. Walking is the ideal exercise for most people with arthritis. It burns calories, strengthens muscles and builds denser bones- all without jarring fragile joints. Want to know more about walking as exercise? Try our Walk with Ease II program.

  • Get appropriate nutrition

If you are looking for a tasty healthy treat, reach for an orange- or a tall glass of orange juice. Why? Recent research has shown the importance of vitamin C and other antioxidants in reducing the risk of osteoarthritis and its progression. Another bonus: oranges and other citrus fruits are good sources of folic acid, which can help alleviate the side effects of the arthritis drug methotrexate and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease in women who have lupus.

Stock up on your favorite source of calcium. A diet rich in this important mineral can help decrease your risk of osteoporosis. If you don't like drinking milk- or want some variety- try consuming more milk products, such as yogurt, cheese and ice cream. Or add powdered milk to puddings, gravies, shakes and other recipes. Other good sources of calcium: broccoli, salmon (with the bones) and kale.

Put up the pastry and grab some fruit, fiber (like oatmeal) and a tall glass of water instead of coffee. Like you've always heard, a healthful breakfast is a great way to start the day. Our free brochure on diet and arthritis can tell you more about healthier eating.

  • Get updated with new procedures

In the past two years, the FDA has approved several drugs for rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis and other arthritis-related diseases. If your current medication isn't working as well as you'd like- or if it's causing unacceptable side effects- ask your doctor about these new treatment options. Check out the online drug guide and supplement guide.

Learn something new about arthritis. Building an understanding of your disease is an important step in managing it. Start by ordering some of our free brochures.

  • Stay in good mood

Read a book of jokes, rent a funny movie or watch your favorite sit-com or stand-up comedian. Laughing- even when you feel like crying from agony- can relax muscles, relieve pain and even boost your immune system.

  • Protect yourself in the sun

Protect yourself when you go out into the sun - wear sunglasses, a hat and sun screen. Some forms of arthritis, as well as certain medications, can leave you more vulnerable to the sun's harmful rays.

  • Relieve burden on your joints

Lose weight. You won't just look better, you'll feel better, too. Why? Every extra pound you carry around translates to added stress to your knees and hips. Excess weight can mean more pain, no matter which form of arthritis you have. It can also contribute to and aggravate osteoarthritis, while increasing your risk of gout. Learn more in the Exercise Center.

  • Sit, soak and soothe

A warm bath before bed can relieve muscle tension, ease aching joints and help you get a good night's sleep. Try our free brochure on ways to manage your pain for more ideas.

  • Treat your muscles

Find a certified massage therapist and treat yourself to a good rub down. The benefits vary from person to person but may include decreased pain and increased circulation, energy and flexibility. And besides, it just feels good.

  • Work smarter

Do something that will make your job easier - check into working flex hours, telecommuting or working part-time. No matter where or when you work, take frequent breaks to stretch stiff joints and sore muscles. Visit the arthritis in the workplace section for more insights.

  • Stretch your legs

Stretching is a simple way to keep joints and muscles flexible. It relieves stress and can help enable you to maintain your daily activities. Try this to keep your calf muscles strong and flexible: Stand two feet from a wall, with your toes pointed inward palms against the wall. Keeping your knees straight and feet flat, lean forward onto your hands without bending at the waist. Feel your calf muscles pull and extend. Hold this position for 10 seconds, then gently push away from the wall. Repeat. There's even more in our free brochures on exercise and arthritis.

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