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Osteoarthritis

Living With Osteoarthritis

Last modified: 
23/04/2012 - 12:42

Contributing Author: Guy Slowik FRCS

Even after a diagnosis of osteoarthritis, individuals can continue to lead a full and active life.

In addition to various self-treatments such as exercise and medical treatments such as injections into a joint, other measures can be taken to live with OA. These measures include:

By learning about osteoarthritis and educating oneself about its treatment, an individual can improve his or her lifestyle and have a new sense of purpose. Your physician is a helpful resource.

Some individuals explore other treatments, including unproven "remedies." While some of these options are safe, others can cause harm. It's prudent to explore the facts and risks before trying such options.

Joint Protection

Joint protection begins with learning new ways to use the arthritic joint. Joint stress and strain can be limited by following a few simple rules.

For the upper body joints:

  • Avoid overburdening small and weaker joints by using larger joints to carry heavy things. For example, carry shopping bags using the forearms or palms of the hands, rather than the fingers.
  • Avoid neck strain by placing reading material or work objects at eye level. Don't look up or down for long periods of time.
  • Relieve finger joint strain by using extra-thick pens when writing.
  • Wear thick gloves to reduce joint strain when a tight grip is needed to hold a tool, heavy pot, or other object.
  • Increase leverage by using long-handled tools and reaching devices when performing activities such as gardening, housework, and retrieving objects from high places.

For the lower body joints:

  • Bend at the knees and straighten the legs (while keeping the back straight) to lift objects from the ground if back pain is a problem.
  • Get up from a chair by sliding forward to the chair's edge, keeping the feet flat on the floor, and using the palms of the hands to push against the chair's arms or seat. Stand up by straightening the hips and knee. Use higher seats rather than deep, soft sofas.
  • Never squat or kneel, as these positions strain the hips and knees.
  • Maintain good posture to avoid putting stress on the joints.
  • Wear well-cushioned athletic shoes with good arch support whenever possible. If dress shoes must be worn, women should choose styles with heels that are no higher than one inch. Men should choose lace-up rather than slip-on styles, which provide less support.
  • Use support devices(cane, walker) if necessary, to reduce strain on the hips and knees when walking. A cane should be held in the opposite hand to the hip or knee affected.

Assistive Devices

Assistive devices can help people with arthritis to perform everyday tasks. Such devices include:

  • Canes, walkers, and other walking aids
  • Cervical collars
  • Special pillows
  • Back braces and supports
  • Splints
  • Jar openers
  • Faucet turners
  • Door knob turners
  • Footstools
  • Key turners
  • Writing devices
  • Reaching devices
  • Shoe inserts
  • Bookstands
  • Bathroom equipment (such as raised toilet seats, handrails by toilet and shower)

Many of these devices - such as splints used to rest sore joints - should be prescribed by a physician and fitted by an expert.

Nice To Know:

Assistive Device Manufacturers

Company Name

Product Line

D'MANNCO, INC. 
P.O. Box 2880
High Springs, FL 32655
Phone: 904-454-3313
Phone: 800-454-4101
Fax: 800-759-5619

Manufacturers of Pucci® Air orthotic products, which use a patented air inflation system to apply low stretch therapy. For treatment of fingers, hands, elbows and knees in adults and children

DYNATRONICS CORPORATION 
7030 Park Centre Drive
Salt Lake City, UT84121
Phone: 801-568-7000
Phone: 800-874-6251
Fax: 801-568-7711 email: 
Email:info@dynatron.com

Internet address: www.dynatronics.com

Offers a full line of orthopedic assistive and supportive devices, including cervical pillows and collars, lumbar supports and cushions, and neck supports.

FLA ORTHOPEDICS 
5757 NW 158th Street
Miami Lakes, FL33014
Phone: 305-820-1900
Phone: 800-327-4110
Fax: 800-874-4117
Email:flaortho@worldnet.att.net

Internet address: www.flaorthopedics.com

Offers a full line of orthopedic, sports medicine, and occupational supports as well as bracing and fracture management products.

GENDRON INC. 
400 Lugbill Road
Archbold, OH43502
Phone: 800-537-2521
Fax: 419-446-2631

Internet address: www.gendroninc.com

Specializes in bath safety products for people who are overweight

GENERATION I USA, INC. 
11818 N. Creek Pkwy. N., #102
Bothell, WA98011
Phone: 425-486-9057
Phone: 800-462-7252
Fax: 425-485-9587
Email: staff@gen2.com

Internet address: www.gen2.com

Pain relief products. Custom and off-the-shelf osteoarthritis and ligament knee braces

The above products are listed for informational purposes only. Endorsement is not implied.

Help From Healthcare Professionls

In addition to family physicians, internists, and rheumatologists (specialists in connective tissue disorders), many other healthcare professionals are available to help arthritis sufferers who have difficulties performing everyday activities. Such individuals are, in fact, essential to a comprehensive arthritis treatment plan. They include:

  • Physical therapists and physiatrists
  • Occupational therapists
  • Nurses
  • Pharmacists
  • Dietitians
  • Psychiatrists and psychologists
  • Social workers

Physical therapists and nurses often have solutions for problems with daily activities (walking, dressing, climbing stairs, bathing), and they can offer ways to cope with disability. In addition, they can provide instruction about joint protection and suggest appropriate aids and assistive devices protection.

Occupational therapists are able to assess the home and recommend changes that can make it safer, more comfortable, and easier to get around.

Psychiatrists, psychologists, and social workers can help individuals to cope with stress, and they can advise both patients and families about the emotional adjustments needed for the new circumstances presented by arthritis.

Nice To Know:

Researchers are investigating whether chondroitin sulfate or glucosamine sulfate can be beneficial in the treatment of osteoarthritis

Chondroitin sulfate is the synthetic form of chondroitin

Glucosamine is the synthetic form of glucosamine

Chondroitin and glucosame are substances naturally found in connective tissue such as cartilage. The synthetic supplements have been reported to help osteoarthritis. U.S. agencies are awaiting more findings before making formal conclusions about the benefits of this product.

Developing A Self-Management Program

Self-management is perhaps the most significant factor in controlling osteoarthritis. A person who anticipates problems and makes lifestyle changes is better able to achieve control. In addition, sharing information with a physician will help to thwart potential difficulties and make the most of available treatments.

Arthritis education is key. Many programs are available through the Arthritis Foundation and other resources. For the best results, it is advisable to learn:

  • Symptom management skills to lessen pain by exercising, using heat or cold, or other strategies.
  • Coping skills to help contend with the arthritis-related changes, including changes in appearance, mood, or levels of pain and stress.
  • Activity planning, so that if symptoms are problematic, activities are planned for the best times or days.

Another simple but effective tool is a personal journal. A small book or log can be used to record both good and bad responses to treatment. The journal can be brought to a physician and reviewed. In this way, the person and his or her physician can both cooperate in the treatment program and overcome any problems that may arise.

In addition, a journal can help to reveal the progress that is made when one sticks with a treatment program. Individual achievements may be small, but they can add up to significant changes over time. To make the most of a journal, a person should note weekly:

  • Exercise periods
  • Joint protection strategies
  • Beneficial dietary changes
  • Methods used to cope with pain and stress
  • Attendance at arthritis classes

How-To Information:

Create an Arthritis Journal

Here is an example of how a personal journal could look:

PERSONAL JOURNAL

Month: _____________________

 

MON.

TUE.

WED.

THU.

FRI.

SAT.

SUN.

MIN.

PER

WEEK

WEEK 1

Exercise

Joint Protect.

Diet

Coping

Classes/Groups

 

             

Responses

(good/bad)

               

WEEK 2

Exercise

Joint Protect.

Diet

Coping

Classes/Groups

               

Responses

(good/bad)

               

WEEK 3

Exercise

Joint Protect.

Diet

Coping

Classes/Groups

               

Responses

(good/bad)

               

WEEK 4

Exercise

Joint Protect.

Diet

Coping Classes/Groups

               

Responses

(good/bad)

             

TOTAL

Unproven "Remedies": Know The Risks

Unproven arthritis remedies are treatments that have NOT been:

  • Evaluated by controlled scientific studies, or
  • Proven effective or safe when evaluated by controlled scientific studies

In order to be accepted by the medical community, all medicines and medicinal aids must undergo numerous tests. Such tests must demonstrate that the products are effective in repeated controlled studies. Arthritis remedies, in particular, must show that they are able to accomplish goals such as pain relief, reduction of inflammation, or improvement in joint function.

Tests also must verify that the product is safe, since high frequencies of unwanted side effects limit the usefulness of any treatment. According to a recent survey by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (USDHHS), one in 10 people who have tried unproven arthritis remedies report harmful side effects.

Yet even if an unproven remedy is harmless, it can still have a negative effect if it causes a person to delay or stop using proven arthritis treatments that were prescribed by a knowledgeable physician.

  • Sometimes an individual may believe that an unproven remedy is effective simply because the remedy was used when symptoms were going into a natural remission (temporary lessening of symptoms).
  • In addition, disease improvement due to positive thinking - otherwise known as the "placebo effect" - may temporarily relieve symptoms in some people. Unfortunately, such improvement usually is short-lived, while the underlying arthritis progressively worsens.

How-To Information:

Unproven Remedies for Arthritis

Unproven but harmless remedies include:

  • Copper bracelets
  • Vibrators
  • Vinegar and honey drinks
  • Mineral spring soaks
  • Magnets

Unproven and potentially dangerous remedies include:

  • Dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO)
  • High-dose vitamin treatments
  • Products with hidden ingredients, such as steroids
  • Snake venom
  • Alcohol (gin)-soaked raisins
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From Andrew Maynard - Chair of the University of Michigan Department of Environmental Health Sciences, with help from David Faulkner - 2013 Master of Public Health graduate.