Are you guilty of the following habits? If the answer is yes, you could be damaging your joints!
Anyone living with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) will be all too familiar with the pain and discomfort it brings. This chronic inflammatory condition attacks bone and cartilage, causing them to become weak and worn, and affects the surrounding area too, damaging the joint-stabilizing muscles and tendons, making the pain even worse. If you’re one of the approximately 23 million individuals in the world suffering from RA, it’s not only essential to follow your recommended treatment program but to also make sure you’re not contributing to the problem with one of the following detrimental habits.
#1 Ignoring your doctor’s advice– this is a no-brainer; if you ignore the advice of your healthcare provider, you won’t see any improvement in your RA. But, despite that obvious fact, studies have found that many individuals living with RA fail to follow their recommended treatment plan, even when they are clearly informed of the importance of doing so. To get the full benefits of your treatment, you must take responsibility for your health – use your medication exactly as prescribed and modify your behavior if your doctor has advised you to do so. Communication is key, so if there’s an aspect of your treatment that you’re not sure about, talk to your doctor – by working together you’ll be able to devise a plan that not only helps you reach your joint health goals but is easy to adhere to, taking into account the severity of your condition, lifestyle and support network.
#2 Constantly texting – it may be a quick and convenient way of communicating but over time the repetitive movement that occurs when we constantly text can further damage already overworked, weakened joints. Don’t worry, you won’t have to give up texting completely – just make sure that you give your texting fingers a rest once in a while; either opt to record messages, text with the phone flat on the table, hold it in a different position now and then or get in touch the good old-fashioned way and make a phone call!
#3 Having a sedentary lifestyle – when you’re experiencing pain and inflammation, it’s understandable that you’ll be reluctant to exercise and studies have shown that those who have RA are generally less active than those who don’t. When you consider the numerous benefits, however, such as a reduction in symptoms, better mobility, and enhanced mood, it makes sense to increase your level of activity. Start by taking a short walk around the block every day, gradually working up to the doctor-recommended amount of exercise – approximately 30 minutes, 5 days a week. It may be hard at first but once you start experiencing the results, you’ll be more motivated to get moving!
#4 Continuing to smoke – you don’t need us to tell you how harmful smoking cigarettes is for your health – not only does it put you at risk of developing conditions such as cancer and heart disease, but it has a seriously detrimental effect on your joints. RA specialists have found that smokers with the condition experience more severe symptoms and their chances of remission are drastically decreased. When you also consider the fact that smoking damages the muscles and contributes to the loss of bone density, the reasons to quit are even more compelling. The good news is, with the help of nicotine gum and patches, quitting won’t be as hard as you may imagine, so make it a priority to discuss a smoking cessation plan with your healthcare provider.
#5 Mismanaging stress – we all have stress in our lives – it’s unavoidable – but how we manage it can make a huge difference in how it affects our well-being. For an individual living with RA, managing stress properly is vital; the negative impact of chemicals released by the body when under stress is greater than it is for someone without RA, making it even more important to find effective methods of reducing it as quickly as possible. While daily meditation and breathing exercises are two great stress-busting techniques, some people find it helpful to talk with friends or a therapist, spend time being creative, or go for regular walks in nature.
#6 Putting up with the pain – if you think that you should simply live with the pain and discomfort of RA, think again. Pain is the body’s way of telling us something is wrong and trying to ignore it can be extremely detrimental. If you’re following a treatment plan but find that it’s not working as well as you’d like, talk to your doctor about how it could be improved, or discuss different pain management techniques you could try. Joint health specialists also recommend taking advantage of the many assistance devices available that help to reduce stress on the joints and make life with RA easier. Look for items such as reachers for retrieving objects around the house or at the grocery store, two-handled pots and pans that provide better weight distribution, grips for jars, cartons, and bottles, zipper pulls and buttoning aids for clothing, wash mitts for the shower and levers that help turn taps on and off.