It starts by wanting to be active and live life -- not unlike anyone else. But if you have arthritis, you know that sometimes the disease can intrude on the desire to live life to the fullest.
Arthritis patients are taught to protect their joints and pace their activities so they don't have to face the consequences that come from overdoing things. For the most part, those consequences include increased pain, fatigue and other symptoms associated with arthritis.
It's fair to say, arthritis patients aren't intentionally overdoing it. It happens when they try to keep up with their disease-free friends and family -- or they may not even realize they have gone past their physical limitations when they are caught up in the moment of having fun or pushing through their workload.
It can feel like a TKO (technical knockout) in boxing, when you realize you have overdone it. What should you do? How should you deal with the consequences of overdoing it? First of all, it is best if you have discussed what to do with your doctor before you're in the boat, so to speak. Have a plan of action ready for when you overdo things, because it's bound to happen.
Depending on the severity of your symptoms, you will want to treat them as if they're an arthritis flare -- only difference is, you know what brought it on.
You have your regular regimen of medication that you take on schedule every day. But some of those pills perhaps can be adjusted (for example, increase the dose of your pain medication). You also could go in for an extra doctor appointment because you may need a steroid injection or an additional prescription. The main point is that your medications can be adjusted, but that should be done with your doctor's input.
You can almost treat your aching joints like an acute injury. Ice or heat, depending on your preference, can offer quick relief. Use assistive devices to protect your joints, once you begin to feel better.
You must allow your body time to recover. Rest is essential if you are going to recover from overexertion. Listen to your body's signals. If you still feel extra pain and fatigue, continue resting. You will know when pain lessens, energy returns and you're ready to go again.
You have increased your medications and you are resting -- now, factor in your favorite way to relax. Whether it's watching television, reading a good book, or getting a massage -- RELAX.
Allow Enough Down Time
Most people with arthritis hate the feelings they have after overdoing activities. Some people say it's worth the extra pain to keep up with family and friends; others say, "Never again." For now, however, you need to get enough down time (rest and relaxation) while you bounce back from overdoing it. Don't cut your recuperation short.
Overdoing it will happen from time to time. It's the nature of arthritis. As long as you have your plan to increase medications, rest, relax and give yourself the time you need to recover -- you should be fine.