More Strategies for Coping With Osteoarthritis

Self-Care and Living With Osteoarthritis

Self-care is central to successfully managing the pain and disability associated with osteoarthritis. People have a much better chance of having a rewarding lifestyle when they educate themselves about the disease and take part in their own care. Working actively with a team of healthcare providers enables people with osteoarthritis to minimize pain, share in decision making about treatment, and feel a sense of control over their lives. Research shows that people living with osteoarthritis who take part in their own care report less pain and make fewer doctor visits. They also enjoy a better quality of life.
People with osteoarthritis find that self-management programs help them with the following things:
  • Understanding the disease
  • Reducing pain while remaining active
  • Coping physically, emotionally, and mentally
  • Having greater control over the disease
  • Building confidence in their ability to live an active, independent life.

Exercise and Osteoarthritis

Regular physical activity plays a key role in living with osteoarthritis. Two types of exercise are important in managing the condition. The first type, therapeutic exercise, keeps joints working as well as possible. The other type, aerobic conditioning exercise, improves strength and fitness, and helps control weight. People should be realistic when they start exercising. They should learn how to exercise correctly, because exercising incorrectly can cause additional problems.
Most people with osteoarthritis exercise best when their pain is least severe. It is important to start with an adequate warm-up and begin exercising slowly. Resting frequently ensures a good workout. It also reduces the risk of injury. A physical therapist can evaluate how a person's muscles are working. This information helps the therapist develop a safe, personalized exercise program to increase strength and flexibility.
Many people enjoy sports or other activities as part of their exercise program. Some good activities include:
  • Swimming and aquatic exercise
  • Walking
  • Running
  • Biking
  • Cross-country skiing
  • Using exercise machines and exercise videotapes or DVDs.
People with osteoarthritis should check with a doctor or physical therapist before starting an exercise program. Healthcare providers will suggest exercises that are best for you, how to warm up safely, and when to avoid exercising a joint affected by arthritis. Pain medications and applying ice after exercising may make activity easier.
(Click Arthritis and Exercise for more information.)
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