Florida Pain Medicine is a rotation site and teaching facility for USF Health ACGME Pain Medicine Fellowship and Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Residency.

Managing Arthritis: 5 Healthy Lifestyle Changes

If you’ve had arthritis for a while, you’ve discovered that conventional medications aren’t the answer to relieving your pain. Although many patients find pain relief with the interventional treatments available at Florida Pain Medicine, the best way to manage your arthritis for the long run is with the following five lifestyle changes.

Increase your activity

Did you know that exercise is considered to be the most effective non-drug treatment for arthritis? You may think that exercise will only aggravate your pain, but getting regular exercise alleviates joint pain, inflammation, and stiffness. Exercise also strengthens the muscles and tissues supporting your joint, which, in turn, reduces the stress on the bones in your joint.

The need to keep moving comes along with a warning, however: Don’t overdo it. The wrong type of exercise or exercising too long can make your arthritis worse. Gentle stretching or range-of-motion exercises, walking, low-impact aerobics, and aquatic exercises are some of the best choices for patients with arthritis.

There’s a delicate balance between knowing when to push yourself and when you need to rest. As great as exercise is, overdoing it can accelerate joint degeneration. That’s where we can help. We can give you recommendations for exercises that are appropriate for your condition, develop a safe exercise plan, and help you learn when pain is telling you to rest.

Fight inflammation with food

The foods you eat can promote joint inflammation and pain, or you can choose foods that actively fight inflammation. One of the best ways to manage your arthritis is to adjust your diet, avoiding inflammatory foods, while adding anti-inflammatory foods to your daily meal plan.

Inflammatory foods to avoid include:

Anti-inflammatory foods include:

An anti-inflammatory is one that follows the same recommendations you’ve probably heard before: Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, fish, beans, and unsaturated fats.

Lose weight

If you feel like every time you turn around you hear about needing to lose weight, there’s a good reason — especially if you have arthritis.

Think about this: Being 10 pounds overweight increases the force on your knee by 30-60 pounds. Every time you take a step, your knees bear 30-60 pounds more than your body weight. That’s intolerable if you have arthritis.

You don’t need to suddenly drop a massive amount of weight to start feeling better. Losing just 10-12 pounds reduces the pressure on your joints and eases your pain and inflammation.

Reduce your stress

We realize it’s hard to reduce stress when you face daily pain and difficulty moving. At the same time, stress makes chronic pain worse. If you have rheumatoid arthritis, you may have noticed that stress often triggers a flare-up.  

Using relaxation techniques can help lower your blood levels of stress hormones. There are many techniques that can help, such as taking a warm bath and listening to your favorite (calming) music, mindfulness meditation, breathing exercises, and guided imagery. Yoga is another great option that lowers stress, while also relieving joint pain and inflammation.

Adjust your bedtime routine

When was the last time you got a good night’s sleep? If you’re like 80% of patients with arthritis, you don’t sleep well due to your pain, and that sets you up for a downward spiral. Pain makes it hard to sleep, and lack of sleep exacerbates your pain. Additionally, lack of sleep may lead to more rapid disease progression and disability.

Adjusting your bedtime routine can improve your sleep. For example, using electronics up until the time you lie down or keeping the TV on are two ways guaranteed to sabotage your sleep.

When pain stops you from getting to sleep, wakes you during the night, or prevents you from exercising, come in and talk with us. We specialize in treatments that safely and effectively alleviate pain, so you can comfortably exercise and get a restorative sleep.

To get help with lifestyle changes for arthritis or to learn more about your pain relief options, call Florida Pain Medicine, or schedule an appointment online.

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