I was shocked when one fine day, I discovered that my knee cartilage had worn out, in other words, I was diagnosed with osteoarthritis(OA). I had been thinking that it is common only among older people. The cause – my blessed genes.
Now, what’s the solution?
Glucosamine tablets: they may or may not work; doctors are not sure.
Painkillers: temporary solution. You can’t take them frequently.
Steroids: the side-effects are well-known.
Knee replacement surgery: this is done only if the pain becomes unbearable and involves risk since it is a major surgery.
None of the above seemed appealing to me. The bad news is that if I don’t do anything about it, it is likely to get worse. The doctor referred me to a physiotherapist, which (I feel today) was the best option.
I read up on all possible literature – online, books, natural remedies and came to the conclusion that it is quite possible to control pain through a combination of lifestyle changes and remedies without medication.
Needless to say, this is the first step towards managing OA. Makes it easier for your knees to support your weight. If you feel that it is easier said than done, think of the pain you will have to endure and as I said, keep warning yourself that it will only get worse if you are not proactive. Pain can be a powerful motivator.
Working out will help strengthen your muscles so that they can support your joints. Your options might be limited but there are still quite a few. Swimming, cycling, yoga or just brisk walking are recommended for OA. Avoid anything that impacts your knees like jumping or running. You can sign up for physiotherapy sessions where they teach you customised stretches based on your age and the extent of the condition. Physio exercises with resistance bands are quite effective. Personally, I prefer yoga and swimming. Click here to learn more about yoga.
Add more veggies, fruits, lean meat, fish, skimmed milk, eggs, pulses and grains to your diet. They will help you reduce weight as well as provide protein for your muscles. There is a host of spices, herbs, and vegetables that are anti-inflammatory in nature – ginger, turmeric, nuts, garlic, black pepper, green leafy vegetables, onions, to name a few. Add them liberally when you cook. Click here for healthy cooking tips.
Avoid refined and processed food, reduce intake of salt, sugar and oily foods. Ginger tea is one remedy I found most useful in alleviating pain.
Though it gives you only temporary relief, it is better and safer that painkillers. This is the remedy which I found to be most useful. It relieves pain, inflammation, and joint stiffness and improves blood circulation. Take hot water mixed with Epsom salt or rock salt, and use a towel to apply the heat for about 15-20 minutes. Swimming in a warm pool also helps. Hard-pressed for time? No worries. Take a warm shower, with the water hot enough to serve the purpose.
If you have pain in one of your joints, it is likely that other joints will also be affected gradually. So protect them even before they get painful.You can be your own ‘occupational therapist’. Find out how you can reduce the stress on joints at home, in your occupation, while caring for the kids or even while shopping.
Rule no.1 – Avoid carrying heavy stuff. Even your handbag can become heavy at times. Reorganise your bag once every week to ensure that you don’t carry unnecessary stuff. Invest in a backpack-style handbag which will distribute the weight between your shoulders.
Rule no.2 – Always use a good pair of shoes for outdoors and sandals at home. Shop around for gadgets that will make life easier, especially for household chores. If you cook a lot, invest in a vegetable chopper, blender, grater, juicer, etc., preferably electrical ones so that your effort is the minimum. Use light-weight utensils for cooking and avoid those heavy cast iron and ceramic pans.
Rule no.3 – Pay attention to your posture while sitting, standing and walking. The right posture goes a long way in easing the stress on your joints. Use a proper desk and high-back chair while working on your laptop even at home so that your arms and neck are well supported. The screen should be at eye level and your forearms should rest on the desk. These are the things we take for granted but in the long run, they matter a lot.
Rule no.4 – Don’t hesitate to ask for help from family, friends and colleagues. Unless you ask, they might not know.
You can beat it
Above all, believe that you can live life to the fullest in spite of arthritis. Not only manage the condition, but also live a better life, using it as an excuse. A positive mindset will help you achieve that.
Today I can proudly say that I lead a healthier lifestyle than a few years back. If not for arthritis, the awareness wouldn’t have happened and I wouldn’t have started this blog!
Have you or a loved one tried any remedies to manage arthritis pain successfully? Please feel free to comment below.