Arthritis pain is one of the most common conditions experienced by mankind, and to date is one of the least understood. A broad term that actually covers over 100 different joint pain conditions, arthritis can refer to rheumatoid or inflammatory arthritis, knee arthritis, etc… (1)
According to the Center for Disease Control, the chronic pain caused by arthritis is the now the leading cause of disability in the United States (2). For the more than 50 million Americans affected by arthritis, pain management is priority number one (3).
Effective arthritis pain management will not only help reduce current discomfort and increase mobility but can help prevent worsening of the condition in the future. That being said, there are a number of very common mistakes one can make that can drastically affect quality of life.
The Low-Down on Arthritis
Most of us know someone affected by arthritis, but very few of us really know what the condition means.
In fact, arthritis causes include infection, smoking, previous injury, genetics, and even obesity. Usually, the cause is a combination of factors.
While genetics can make someone more or less susceptible to some forms of arthritis, lifestyle usually determines if and how bad arthritis develops.
Symptoms of arthritis include joint pain and inflammation, stiffness, and decreased range of motion. These can all worsen your quality of life and make day-to-day living difficult. (5)
See also: anti inflammatory foods
11 Arthritis Pain Mistakes
For all of these reasons and more, taking care of your joints will go a long way in preventing future pain and discomfort. If you’re at risk for arthritis or if you have the condition, avoid the following arthritis pain mistakes.
1. Avoiding Exercise
Exercise may be the least appealing thing when your joints ache, but it really will help you feel better to get moving (6).
Supervised strength training, in particular, is beneficial for arthritis patients as it promotes muscle growth and supports the stability of joints (9).
For those times when you may be hurting too much to get to the gym, a simple walk would be infinitely better than remaining sedentary.
2. Avoiding Doctor’s Appointments
Whether it’s waiting too long for an official diagnosis or not wanting to bother your doctor, regular exams and treatments can make all the difference in your quality of life.
Your doctor can prescribe medication or recommend lifestyle changes that can ease arthritis pain and slow the progression of certain types of arthritis.
Even if you manage your pain well, it’s just as important to see your doctor regularly.
It’s even more important for your doctor to confirm the right diagnosis, as each kind of arthritis has its own optimal treatment regimen.
3. Not Taking Care of Your Mental Health
Arthritis is a form of chronic illness, and as such those who suffer from it are more likely to be diagnosed with anxiety, depression, or other mental health disorders. It makes complete sense: constant arthritis pain takes just as much of a toll on your mental well-being as it does on the physical (10).
Individuals with arthritis take nearly twice as many sick days and are more than twice as likely to report symptoms of depression and anxiety (11).In addition to regular doctor’s visits, consider seeing a mental health professional as well. It’s very important to know that you’re not alone and that it’s ok to have bad days.
Not seeking treatment decreases the likelihood of complying with treatment plans, which in turn can make the pain and inflammation worse, which then adversely affects mental health in a vicious circle (12). If you suffer from arthritis, you may be depressed and not even know it. Bottom line: don’t be afraid to address your mental health.
4. Avoiding Herbal Remedies
The benefits of natural treatments extend to mental health and quality of life as well – they may just not work immediately.
On the plus side, natural treatments such as turmeric, essential oils, and massage therapy have no adverse side effects.
5. Not Taking Your Arthritis Seriously
There is a difference between the aches and pains associated with physical activity and age, and actual arthritis (15). Arthritis may go into periods of remission, but that is not the same as curing it completely.
It is rare that arthritis is a temporary condition, and by not properly addressing it one can accelerate the progression of the illness temporarily or permanently (16). Taking control of your condition involves making some serious lifestyle changes.
6. Eating Processed Foods
One of the hallmark signs and symptoms of arthritis is inflammation.
Adopting an anti-inflammatory diet once diagnosed with arthritis is one of the most beneficial and important actions you can take (17). That’s partly because processed foods are known inflammatory agents.
Processed foods are generally high in sugar, unhealthy fats, and sodium – all of which cause inflammation.
Incorporate as many anti-inflammatory foods in your diet as possible. These include leafy green vegetables, nuts, fresh or frozen fruits, olive oil, and more. Avoid nightshade vegetables and eat organic to keep yourself in the best condition possible (18).
7. Viewing Surgery as a Quick Fix
Some people explore surgical options to treat their arthritis pain. While surgery undoubtedly has its place in joint replacement, research shows that surgical attempts to repair arthritic joints are mostly ineffective (19).
Arthritis is a chronic autoimmune disorder, which means that the body will continue to attack soft tissue (and bone) after surgical intervention. In instances where the diagnosis occurs after an injury or illness, surgery may only worsen your condition.
In any case, surgery is not a quick fix. It is invasive and aggressive, and should only be a last resort. Even if the surgery itself goes well, there are multiple complications that can occur during the healing process (20).
8. Underestimating the Importance of Good Sleep
Unfortunately, loss of sleep or difficulty sleeping can be easily dismissed as a side effect of arthritis pain and, as a result, isn’t addressed.
The fact of the matter is that getting enough sleep is just as important as any other form of active arthritis management. In fact. lack of sleep can (and will) make the pain and inflammation worse (23).
Full-blown insomnia is not unusual in arthritis patients, so be sure to discuss lack of sleep with your doctor and explore natural remedies to address the issue.
If you have arthritis (or are at risk for developing it) and are a smoker, it is highly encouraged that you enroll in a smoking cessation program immediately.
So important, in fact, that there are smoking cessation programs specifically for people with rheumatoid arthritis (26).
10. Feeling Hopeless
Piggybacking on item #3 on this list, it is extremely important to keep your spirits high even as you experience setbacks during treatment.
Just as there are hundreds of types of arthritis, there are even more treatment options available (27). Treating chronic conditions like arthritis is not a one-size-fits-all approach.
If a treatment isn’t working or isn’t as effective as it used to be, then it’s time to try a new approach.
It’s also worth repeating: take care of your mental health. It’s key to your overall well-being (28).
11. Pushing Through the Pain
Constantly pushing through chronic pain is exhausting. Period.
After a while, this results in fatigue, depression, and worse pain. Don’t be a hero: take advantage of the pain treatment options available to you (within reason, of course). As with any disease, there’s no reason to suffer if you can avoid it.
Be sure to address your mental health as well, whether you need to take a mental/physical health day from work. Also, don’t be afraid to talk to your friends, family, and colleagues about the struggles you face.
Arthritis is, for the most part, an invisible illness which makes you more likely to ‘just deal with it’. But you don’t have to. More importantly: you shouldn’t.