What's the secret to living the good life when you have arthritis? It's all about taking care of yourself, seeking out the best possible therapies, and taking wellness seriously. Unfortunately many people make big mistakes when dealing with arthritis, potentially sabotaging their treatment. With 27 million Americans affected by osteoarthritis (the breakdown of cartilage between the bones), and 1.5 million dealing with rheumatoid arthritis (the inflammation of connective tissue in the joint), it's important to help patients better manage these conditions. So QualityHealth has listed 10 common mistakes people with arthritis make-and how to avoid them.

1. You assume a friend's arthritis treatment plan is right for you. There are more than 100 different types of arthritis, and multiple treatment options. While some types of arthritis are best addressed by similar therapies and medications, others require different treatments.

2. You don't see a specialist. Your general or family practice physician can diagnose most types of arthritis, but you might do well to seek medical care from an arthritis or immunology specialist. He or she will know about the latest treatment options, be able to recommend therapists with experience dealing with your condition, and be better equipped to guide you towards wellness. If you have concerns about your condition or treatment and your physician isn't addressing them, consider consulting a specialist.

3. You don't take your medication as prescribed. Too many patients take their medications only when they're feeling poorly and skip doses when they're feeling well. Neglecting to take your medication can be actively harmful, causing inflammation and an increase in other symptoms. It's especially important to take medications exactly as prescribed when you have juvenile onset or rheumatoid arthritis.

4. You don't exercise. It's hard to focus on fitness when your joints hurt, but sitting on the sofa will only cause harm in the long run. Exercise keeps joints functioning and lubricated, and supportive muscles strong and lean. Exercise also helps patients maintain a stable body weight, ensuring joints don't have to carry a greater load than they should.

5. You don't perform the right kind of exercise.
Some forms of fitness can be hard on joints. Arthritis patients should focus on cardio, strength, and flexibility training programs that are low or no-impact and non-jarring. Swimming, water aerobics, strength training, biking, and walking are all good choices, as are many forms of yoga, tai chi, and Qigong.

6. You still smoke. Cigarettes damage every part of the body, especially the cardiovascular system. When blood vessels can't efficiently circulate fluids, nutrients, or oxygen through the body, your muscles, nerve endings, bones, and joints can deteriorate. Quit smoking once and for all.

7. You gain weight.
Your bones and joints were designed to carry only so much weight. The average American gains weight every year. The risk is increased for people as they age, especially if they have sedentary jobs. In addition, fat cells produce leptins, proteins that can promote painful and potentially damaging inflammation. Bone health declines as we age, so if your weight is creeping up, too, you're asking your bones and joints to work even harder.

8. You don't eat a healthy diet. If you're eating a poor quality diet, your body isn't getting the essential nutrients it needs to repair cell damage, keep your immune system humming along, and provide the energy you need to get through a day. Your diet should include plenty of:

  • Fruits
  • Veggies
  • Lean proteins
  • Whole grains
  • Calcium-rich foods
  • Clean, fresh water

9. You skimp on sleep. Achy, swollen joints can make it difficult to get a sound night's sleep, which can make it difficult for your body to heal. Ask your doctor for advice on how to schedule your medications so you're as comfortable as possible through the night. Make sure you bedroom is cool and quiet, and shut off all electronics (TV, too!) an hour before bedtime.

10. You focus on the sickness and ignore all the good things in life.
It's easy to wallow when you're in pain, tired, and stressed. But pervasive negative thinking can affect your ability to stay well. That's why it's important to focus on all the ways your body is functioning. Promote a healthy body and mind by staying active and connected to friends and family, continuing to try new things, and making a point of having fun every day. That way, life is about far more than just arthritis.

Nathan Wei, MD, FACP, FACR, reviewed this article.




Centers for Disease Control
Arthritis Statistics

Arthritis Foundation