At-home strategies can help people cope with osteoarthritis
BY DR. KOMOROFF Universal Uclick
Tuesday, October 09, 2012
10/09/12 at 4:08 AM
Dear Doctor K: I was just diagnosed with osteoarthritis. What can I do at home to manage my discomfort?
Dear Reader: Osteoarthritis is the most common kind of arthritis. For some people it causes just occasional aches and pains. But for others, pain and stiffness can make it difficult to perform daily tasks.
There are several ways that you can make coping with arthritis a little easier:
Regular exercise It may be counterintuitive, but regular physical activity not only helps maintain joint function, it also relieves stiffness and decreases pain and fatigue. Exercise increases range of motion, strengthens muscles and builds endurance.
Achieving and maintaining a normal body weight Bearing excess weight results in more stress on joints and more pain. Your joints will let you know of their appreciation if you lose some weight.
Assistive devices A variety of splints are available for hands and fingers, wrists, elbows, knees and ankles. These may help to ease pain and increase mobility. Using a cane can relieve pressure on hips and knees. An array of helpful gadgets, from jar openers to dusters, are also available.
Acupuncture can significantly improve the pain of hip or knee osteoarthritis.
Heat therapy A warm shower or bath can work wonders, especially before and after exercising. Hot packs, moist/dry heating pads, or even a towel warmed in the oven or microwave can offer instant relief.
Cooling Gel-filled cold packs, coolant sprays, ice chips in a plastic bag and packages of frozen peas can soothe hot, painful joints. Don't leave them on longer than 20 minutes.
Supplements Glucosamine and chondroitin shouldn't hurt you, but their effectiveness is still under study. If you choose to take supplements, tell your doctor.
If the strategies I've discussed don't adequately control your pain, you may have to consider various pain medications.
Write Dr. K at www.AskDoctorK.com or c/o Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut, Kansas City, MO 64106