Living with a chronic condition like arthritis can be disruptive and unsettling.
Chronic arthritis pain affects each and every aspect of your life including relationships, employment, leisure and hobbies. So, apart from the pain and its physical and functional limitations, living with chronic conditions often make the patients feel unsafe, inadequate, helpless, and miserable.
Your willingness to take responsibility and ability to make strategic changes is an important determinant of how well you manage the chronic pain of arthritis. Acknowledging and accepting chronic pain as an inevitable physical and emotional consequence of arthritis is a vital step in initiating lifelong effective pain management. Taking a positive approach to lifestyle changes like weight loss, diet, exercise etc. can not only help you in pain management but also make you feel powerful and competent in the face of daily challenges.
Once you have made peace with reality, it is time to get into the driver’s seat and get ahead of the condition. In light of this fact, here are 5 ways in which you can take charge of long term arthritis pain management –
1. Find support
Considering the restricted mobility and the combination of physio-psychological effects resulting from arthritis pain, holistic online healthcare support communities are emerging today as a reliable option for meeting the self-care needs of the patients.
The ortho support community on CareSpace is one such a healthcare community that brings together patients, their families, various specialists, and healthcare providers together for finding effective solutions for the management of arthritis pain. Whether you want to have a general discussion or get a specific clarification, the discussion board and polls on the CareSpace platform let you do that. If you want a specialist’s opinion, you can consult them directly or raise your query in a Q&A session. Apart from these online consults, you can also get recommendations for local specialists, exercise facilities and trainers, therapists, support groups etc. from fellow members. The community has options for posting anonymously and even to have an invite-only private community – so, you can seek all the help you need without any reservations.
Apart from the ortho community, the platform has several other healthcare communities like stress and anxiety, diabetes, BP, heart disease, depression, addiction, nutrition, and exercise. So, whatever additional issue you are dealing with as a result of this chronic pain, you can find help within CareSpace itself. The deep search tools of the platform let you find members and the families dealing with similar conditions as yours (osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis etc.) or living in your city and then connect with them through private messaging for further interactions. Finally, CareSpace has a handy tracker on which you can set reminders for dosage and timing of your medications along with tracking your vitals like BP, glucose levels etc.
2. Devise a long term pain management strategy
To begin with, learn all you can about the condition – from doctors, fellow patients, therapists, and caregivers. Using this knowledge, along with your own schedule and priorities as a roadmap, you should work with your doctor to develop strategies regarding medication, lifestyle modification, and psychological management of your pain.
Medications like nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (aspirin, ibuprofen) and Opioid and narcotic analgesics have an important role to play in the management of arthritis pain – both in the long term and in the short term. Apart from prescription pain medications, we also have options for cutting edge treatment techniques like Amniotic allograft injection, Alpha-2-Macroglobulin injection, Bone Marrow Aspirate Concentrate (BMAC), Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS)and Radiofrequency Ablation.
Along with medical strategies you could also use alternative pain management options like massage therapy, acupuncture, hypnosis, magnetic therapy, tai chi, and herbal or dietary supplements. Physical activity and exercise (walking, cycling, water aerobics etc.) is also a key part of long term arthritis pain management as it helps to strengthen the muscles of painful joints, lose the excess weight, improve sleep quality, and promote a sense of wellbeing. Eating anti-inflammatory and antioxidant rich foods like fatty fish, garlic, ginger, berries, spinach, soy, olive oil, and dairy can help you control inflammation and in turn reduce pain.
3. Manage your emotions
Arthritis patient’s perception of pain and the emotional response has a direct effect on the extent and intensity of their pain. These emotions are often surprising and overwhelming. Therefore managing them is crucial for effective self-care in the course of arthritis pain management.
The everyday ordeal of chronic arthritis pain might make you feel angry, frustrated, and embarrassed. The fear and anxiety of making huge changes to your social life, economic resources, and relationships can be debilitating. Arthritis usually results in increased reliance on spouse and family members – this can make you feel guilty and uncomfortable. More often than not, you are too focused on the physical pain and neglect to address the emotional and psychological aspects of the same. As these intense feelings can put you at risk for mental health conditions like social isolation, depression, and addiction, it is important that you make their long term management a priority.
For treating these conditions, you might need to get medication, therapy, or join a regular support group depending on your needs. A daily yoga and meditation practice has been proven to be beneficial in managing anxiety, depression, stress, and panic attacks. Cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) might also be useful in helping you focus on making the most of pain-free periods
4. Modify your environment
Modifying your home to minimise pain during daily tasks does not mean expensive remodelling.
Even small modifications around your house can have a huge impact on your arthritis pain as they can protect you avoid unnecessary bending, stooping, or reaching.
Some examples of such environmental modifications are – using automatic toilet bowl cleaners, installing a suction mat in the tub to prevent falls, mounting a grab bar over tubs and toilets, using a stool/a seat in the shower, keeping a grabber nearby for picking up things, using a specially designed rocker knife etc. You could also practice behaviour modifications that let you minimise movement and conserve energy like purchasing smaller size items that are easier to handle, using a cane to support yourself while climbing stairs, replacing heavy stoneware for lighter pots and pans in the kitchen and so on. Another key adjustment is to identify the relatively pain-free window in your day and scheduling the most strenuous activities in that time. Cooking dinner at midday itself if your hands hurt in the evening is a good example of this.
Modifying your environment also includes finding the best functional movements that let you get stuff done with minimal strain on your body. Pushing open strong doors with the side of the arm/shoulders instead of hands or leading with the strong leg going up and the weaker leg going down while climbing stairs etc. are some examples of such modifications.
Today, the focus of arthritis and for that matter, any chronic pain management strategy has shifted from opioids and medications. While they are still necessary, medical practitioners and patients alike are increasingly looking for alternative options and lifestyle changes and community support to add to their daily pain management regimens.
If you or a loved one is looking for such holistic support in managing chronic arthritis pain, check in with the members and Specialists on the exclusive Ortho care community on CareSpace today for all the inspiration, support, and expert advice that you need.