Living with arthritis isn’t easy. Often carrying out day-to-day tasks can be painful and difficult. However, there are many things you can do live a healthy lifestyle, and a range of benefits and services are also available.
If you have arthritis it’s important to eat a healthy, balanced diet to give you the nutrients you need and to help you maintain a healthy weight.
Your diet should comprise of a variety of foods from the five food groups:
- starchy foods such as bread, rice, potatoes and pasta
- fruit and vegetables
- milk and dairy foods
- meat, eggs, fish and beans
- foods containing fat and sugar
If you’re overweight, losing weight can help considerably if you have arthritis. Too much weight places excess pressure on the joints in your hips, knees, ankles and feet, resulting in increased pain and mobility problems.
If your arthritis is painful, you may not feel much like exercising. However, being active can help reduce and prevent pain. Regular exercise can also improve your range of movement and joint mobility, reduce stiffness, increase muscle strength and give you more energy.
Your doctor can advise about the type and level of exercise that’s best for you.
If you have arthritis, it’s important to look after your joints so that there is no further damage. For example, try to reduce the stress on your joints while carrying out everyday tasks such as moving and lifting.
Some tips for protecting your joints, particularly if you have arthritis, include:
- use several joints to spread the weight of an object – for example, use both hands to carry your shopping or distribute the weight evenly in a shoulder bag or rucksack
- use larger, stronger joints as levers – for example, take the pressure of opening a heavy door on your shoulder rather than on your hand
- don’t grip too tightly. Grip as loosely as possible or use a padded handle to widen your grip
- Avoid sitting in the same position for long periods of time and take regular breaks so you can move around.
You may find some aspects of your work challenging if you have arthritis, but your employer should help you with the training and support you need.
Support is available if your arthritis is so severe that you’re unable to work. Find out more about the Personal Independence Payment (formerly known as the Disability Living Allowance).
If you have arthritis, carrying out tasks around the home can be a challenge. However, making some practical changes to your home and changing the way you work should make things easier.
Tips that could help include:
- keeping things within easy reach
- using long-handled tools to clean or pick up things
- using a hand rail to help you get up and down the stairs
- fitting levers to taps to make them easier to turn
- using electric kitchen equipment, such as tin openers, when preparing food
An occupational therapist can help if you have severe arthritis that’s affecting your ability to move around your home and carry out everyday tasks, such as cooking and cleaning. They can advise about the equipment you may need to help you live independently.
Depending on the exact nature of your condition, your GP may be able to refer you to an NHS occupational therapist. However, you may need to access this type of therapy through your local council.
Is acupuncture helpful?
Some people with osteoarthritis say that acupuncture has helped relieve their symptoms.
However, if you wish to try it, bear in mind that any benefits of acupuncture are likely to be the result of expectation or placebo effect.
The lack of evidence for the effectiveness of acupuncture is why health watchdog NICE doesn’t recommend it for treating osteoarthritis.