My mother was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis when she was 20, but was able to stay mobile well into her 80s. During the course of those 60 years, I watched her take various medications, try different diets and exercise programs, and attempt various other remedies to combat her pain and fatigue. Okay, the psychic healer was the most far-fetched, but we would have tried anything to keep Mom “upright” as she used to say.
Now I am in my 50s and have been diagnosed with the same illness. I know the struggles that lay before me. Some days it would be easy to curl up and be a couch potato, but I know one of the keys is to keep moving!
Here are 5 tips that make my life as an arthritic easier:
- Pick an activity you like to do and keep doing it. My Mom liked to swim at the community pool because the water was warm and soothed her aching joints. Personally, I like walking on my treadmill or doing yoga. Don’t make the exercise too strenuous … kick boxing might be out! Try low-impact aerobic activity or range of motion exercises to maintain your flexibility. The truth is if you don’t use your muscles, they can begin to atrophy… move it or lose it!
- Have you ever struggled to open a can or jar? Don’t! OXO Good Grips kitchen tools were designed by an entrepreneurial husband whose wife had arthritis and can make cooking a lot easier. Need to chop some garlic? Either invest in a good food processor or cheat like I do – buy them pre-chopped!
- Make items easy to reach. At 5’2”, I try and store things so I don’t always have to reach or bend, particularly in my laundry room or bathroom. It must have been a giant who designed those cabinets on top of your oven! When I am shopping at the grocery store and want to buy something I can’t reach, I always find someone who is tall… they are often flattered they can use their height to their advantage.
- Pace yourself. Since I work full-time and have two active teenagers, this one is the hardest for me. However, if I overdo it, I pay for it the next day. I try and make lists to coordinate my errands and stop running around by 9PM at night. This gives me an hour to relax before bedtime and helps me to sleep.
- Get a massage. Some of my arthritic friends go to chiropractors – I get a deep tissue massage once/month. It’s definitely not relaxing, but kneading those sore muscles or stress points really works the kinks out.
Have I had to adjust my lifestyle to accommodate my arthritis? You bet! But since both longevity and arthritis run in our family, and this is the only body I have, I better take care of it!