It's difficult to live with chronic pain and other aspects of arthritis. That may seem like an obvious statement, as well as an understatement. But it's important to acknowledge. It's also important to acknowledge that living with arthritis may be easier if we stop doing certain things. Paying attention to what we should stop doing can be just as important as focusing on what we should be doing. Consider these 10 things you should stop doing if you have arthritis.
1. Stop thinking you can't exercise. This may be one of the biggest misconceptions and debates associated with arthritis. People with arthritis are encouraged to exercise and participate in regular physical activity to keep their joints moving, decrease joint pain and stiffness, strengthen the muscles that support the joints, and improve mobility. Many people with arthritis fear that exercise will increase pain and choose to avoid it. It is actually inactivity that brings on more pain and disability in the long run. To reap the benefits of exercise, you should start slow with gentle, joint-friendly exercise, build on what you can do, and respect pain -- but don't let pain stop you.
2. Stop giving in to a sedentary lifestyle. Not only do some people think they can't exercise, they have difficulty with the concept of balancing rest and activity. Rest may help you feel better temporarily, but it can't become a way of life. A sedentary lifestyle can actually increase pain and stiffness, as well as lead to obesity, which is bad for weight-bearing joints. A reasonable amount of rest is good, but find the motivation to do things too.
3. Stop eating an unhealthy diet that packs on pounds. It's a recognized fact that eating a healthy diet is beneficial for everyone. Eating well and maintaining your ideal weight is especially important for people with arthritis. Excess body weight can impact weight-bearing joints and can increase arthritis pain. Even moderate weight gain can stress joints that are already burdened by arthritis. Be kind to your joints by watching calorie intake.
4. Stop ignoring your physical limitations. Just as there are people with arthritis who avoid physical activity, there are those who push beyond their limits. The recommendation is to pace your activities. Overdoing it is just as harmful as underdoing it. Pushing your limits can increase pain and increase your risk of joint damage. Respect pain and choose activities with your physical limitations in mind.
5. Stop avoiding mobility aids because your pride gets in the way. A cane, walker, or wheelchair may be necessary for some people with arthritis to hang on to their independence and be able to get around. Some people can't bear the thought of using a mobility aid, though, because of what it does to their self-image and self-esteem. Some actually would choose to isolate themselves at home rather than be seen with a cane, walker, or wheelchair. Canes and walkers can offer additional support and improve balance when walking. Do what's necessary to protect your joints and improve your balance.
6. Stop thinking that your arthritis is going away. Many forms of arthritis are chronic diseases. There is no cure. Early diagnosis and early treatment will help you manage symptoms and disease progression, but for most, the disease is not going away. Make decisions that will keep you as healthy as possible despite your arthritis, but never deny that it's now a major part of your life.
7. Stop fearing medications that may help you. Some people with arthritis do not agree to take certain medications even though their doctor has recommended a particular course of treatment. Arthritis patients sometimes avoid painkillers because they fear addiction or they choose not to use biologic drugs because they fear potential serious side effects. Rather than being fearful, each individual and their doctor should weigh the benefits and risks of using a particular medication.
8. Stop holding back when you consult with your doctor. It's tempting to not tell your doctor everything, especially when you think that full disclosure may result in a consequential diagnostic test or treatment change that you really don't want. But in order for your doctor to have the best chance of helping you, he needs to know everything. Talk openly about what makes your condition better or worse, what concerns you have, and what you don't understand. Good communication is essential.
9. Stop feeling guilty. Arthritis can intrude on life. It can get in the way of performing usual duties and taking care of your responsibilities at home or at work. You may start to feel guilty when you can't do what you know is expected of you. It may take a lot of effort, but learn to let go of guilt and to be satisfied with doing the best you can do under the circumstances.
10. Stop asking "why me?" Arthritis can be a life-changer. We've made that point repeatedly. When you are in a lot of pain or having a particularly bad day, you can begin to wonder what you did to deserve arthritis and can get stuck on asking yourself, "why me?" That thinking must be short-lived. A negative-focused mindset can only work against you. Fight it.