Chronic arthritis pain is a health issue that affects many older adults. If your senior loved one is dealing with joint pain as a result of arthritis, this article will provide a few tips to help them manage their arthritis pain so they can feel better, stay active and continue to enjoy activities at their retirement or senior living community.
Arthritis causes pain and swelling in one or more joints, which makes it difficult to move. Surprisingly, arthritis is not a single disease: it refers to over 100 medical conditions, known collectively as rheumatic diseases. Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis among seniors and affects over 27 million Americans.
May is National Arthritis Awareness Month, making it a great time to learn more about the disease, the causes of arthritis pain and how to manage arthritis symptoms so your loved one can maintain a healthy, active and independent lifestyle.
What Are the Symptoms of Arthritis?
Arthritis pain can be caused by a number of factors including inflammation and swelling in the joints as well as damage to tissues, muscle strain and fatigue. If your loved one has been diagnosed with arthritis, their pain may develop slowly and worsen over time. They may complain of tenderness when pressure is applied to a joint, typically in the hands, fingers, arms, hips, knees or legs. Symptoms are usually worse in the morning and stiffness can last for 30 minutes after waking up. Discomfort and fatigue are common factors of managing arthritis pain.
What Can You Do to Manage Your Arthritis Pain?
Learning how to manage arthritis pain can help reduce stress, improve the mood and help a person feel more in control of their health. Managing arthritis pain for the elderly can be achieved in a number of ways.
1. Managing Arthritis Through Physical Activity
If your loved one struggles with managing their arthritis, it does not mean they have to give up having an active lifestyle. In fact, staying in motion can help mitigate and relieve inflammation. Many doctors and rheumatologists point to the benefits of exercise for alleviating stiffness, improving joint mobility and flexibility, reducing fatigue and strengthening bones. Examples of physical activity, one of the best ways to help arthritis pain, include:
- A fitness program that incorporates low-impact physical activity such as walking, biking and balance exercises. This type of exercise can improve mood, function and quality of life for seniors with arthritis.
- Range-of-motion exercises, aerobic exercise, resistance training, and gentle forms of movement like tai chi and yoga are all effective ways to manage arthritis pain.
In addition to helping adults control their arthritis pain, following a light-intensity physical vitality program can also give seniors more energy throughout the day, aid in a restful sleep and help with weight control. Your doctor or a physical therapist can provide guidance on how to safely integrate exercise into your loved one’s current treatment plan.
2. Tips for Managing Joint Pain With Medication
There are a variety of prescription and over-the-counter pharmaceutical treatments available to manage arthritis pain.
- For minor discomfort and swelling, pain relievers such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), aspirin or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) may help.
- Topical creams that contain active ingredients like menthol (Bengay, Stopain) or capsaicin (Capzasin, Zostrix) can be applied directly to painful areas.
- Prescription painkillers, including Celebrex, may be necessary if arthritis symptoms are severe.
- Heating pads or icing may also help relieve arthritis pain. Before beginning a medication regime, first consult your doctor to understand your options and discover what’s right for you.
3. Control Arthritis Pain Through Diet
Preserving joint health is a key step in managing arthritis pain and can begin with losing weight. In addition to improving a senior’s your overall health, weight loss helps lessen arthritis pain by reducing the stress placed on the joints and protects against future injury. Research shows that losing as little as 10 pounds relieves 40 pounds of pressure from the knees and cuts osteoarthritis risk in half.
Following an arthritis diet does not mean your loved one has to give up his or her love for the culinary delights of exotic cultures. Adults who are looking for ways to manage their arthritis pain by adjusting their diet often:
- Follow a Mediterranean or “anti-inflammatory diet” filled with vitamin-packed foods, including fish, nuts, legumes, fruits, leafy greens and vegetables. This eating plan can aid in weight control, heart health and contribute to bone strength.
- Research also suggests that avoiding or limiting certain foods can help decrease inflammation. Those foods include fried foods and processed foods like frozen meals; high amounts of sugar and saturated fats in foods including soda, white-flour baked goods, full-fat dairy products and candy; refined carbohydrates such as products made with white flour and white potatoes; and alcohol and tobacco.
4. Managing Arthritis Through Mental Wellness
Living with arthritis can produce anxiety or depression. Learning to self-manage arthritis can help improve these symptoms and result in more energy to enjoy life. Self-management strategies for arthritis are tips for easing pain and coping with the symptoms. Those strategies for arthritis pain management in the elderly can include:
- Goal setting
- Pain management
- Communication techniques
- Relaxation techniques
- How to evaluate new treatments
5. Assistive Devices for Managing Arthritis Pain
For seniors with arthritis, managing everyday tasks can be difficult. To help, there is a wide variety of self-help assistive devices available to make tasks easier on the joints and help you move with more ease. These devices may be found in pharmacies, hardware stores or medical supply stores. Your healthcare provider can recommend the type of assistive devices that would be right for you, including:
- Supportive devices, including splints, braces, gloves and shoe inserts can provide stability and reduce discomfort.
- Mobility devices like canes, transfer aids, carts, scooters and walkers are designed to enhance movement and safe mobility.
- Adaptive aids can help make everyday activities easier to accomplish, including bathing, dressing, grooming, eating and writing.
Arthritis pain is not something seniors should have to “grin and bear.” Pain does not have to be part of everyday life. By finding ways to control arthritis pain, your loved one can maintain their personal freedom and live a healthy, active lifestyle.
Find out how Elmcroft helps seniors stay active with our Walking Tall Program.