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Joint pain can turn ordinary activities, like getting into the car or deciding what to wear, into challenges — but they're challenges you can overcome.
Living Well With Arthritis
Arthritis affects more than one in five adults in the United States, and more women than men. If you have arthritis, joint pain can substantially interfere with your quality of life and the ability to do those everyday activities you once did with ease. So what should be your first step to improving life with arthritis?
Schedule a consultation with a physical therapist to help you solve some of the problems you encounter every day — you can get personalized advice on how to move through each day without increasing joint pain.
Get Moving to Ease Arthritis
Arthritis and exercise may not seem like a natural match, but staying active can definitely help your joint pain.
“Joints are meant to move, and when they move they’re lubricated,” says Patrice Winter, PT, MS, assistant professor at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. Even arthritic joints benefit from motion. The key is to know your limits, Winter says.
Understand the range of motion available to you and don’t push past that limit, or you can end up increasing joint pain. And skip the weight-bearing exercises — water-based activities are ideal, especially in warm water.
Work Toward a Pain-Free Work Day
Joint pain can make sitting at a desk miserable. Fortunately, a few simple tips can help you get through a day at the office.
If you work at a desk, make sure you have an ergonomic chair that supports your body and a workstation where all your actions can be done within your range of motion. Choose a hands-free headset instead of clenching a phone between your shoulder and your head. And stay active — remember that it’s vital to get exercise when you have arthritis. Get up and stretch every 30 to 60 minutes.
Keep Sex Alive!
Stiff joints? You can still let loose in the bedroom. Your approach to sex should involve support, support, support — and a little bit of creativity. Pillows, wedges, and rolled towels that support curved areas will improve your sexual experience, as will trying out new positions to find what’s comfortable.
The most important point, says Winter, is not to always conform to the standard missionary position (one partner on top and the other underneath). Spooning, for instance, might be a more viable alternative, she suggests.
Cooking Made Easier With Arthritis
The secret to navigating the kitchen when you have joint pain is having everything that you use most commonly in your “strike zone.” That means you may have to reorganize cooking essentials so that most items are between shoulder and thigh height.
It’s also a good idea to have a counter at thigh height, which will make stirring and rolling dough easier, says Winter. Finally, plan your strategy before you start cooking so that you won’t have to carry heavy items, such as a pot full of pasta, across the kitchen by yourself.
A Better Way to Open Cans and Jars
It’s common to get a flare of arthritis pain in your wrist when you try to open a can or jar, says Winter. But those jars, cans, and bottles still need to be handled, whether you’re preparing a meal or taking daily vitamins.
Consider investing in tools that do the job for you, like electric can and jar openers (look for longer levers for more power). Higher-end appliances may be able to handle both cans and jars.
Sports can be rough on joints and cartilage, especially shoulders, knees, and hips. Kelly Cunningham, MD, has cared for many young and mature athletes whose joints take a beating day in and day out. He welcomes patients from Austin, Texas, and its surrounding communities to experience the cutting-edge technology and skill offered by his team at Austin Ortho + Biologics.
Dr. Cunningham works with each athlete to develop an individual treatment plan that emphasizes the least invasive treatments possible with a goal of minimal recuperation and downtime. He combines rigorous standards and quality of care with experience and insight, integrating the best new techniques into the care of each patient.
His patients have included skilled athletes in football, basketball, baseball, and hockey, including members of the Dallas Cowboys at their Austin training camp, Austin Ice Bats hockey players, Southwestern University athletes, and many other college and high school athletes. He served for 15 years as a traveling team physician for the men’s alpine downhill US Olympic Ski Team, providing on-the-hill medical race coverage in North America and Europe, including qualifying races for the Winter Olympics.
As a sports medicine specialist, Dr. Cunningham also treats many seasoned weekend warriors such as runners, skiers (downhill, snowboard, and water), and tennis and golf enthusiasts.
After medical school and residency training in Dallas, he completed a sports medicine/knee fellowship with renowned orthopedic specialist Dr. Richard Steadman in Vail, Colorado, and underwent further shoulder training in England and Canada.
While with Dr. Steadman, the originator of the popular microfracture cartilage treatment technique, he developed a strong interest in the care of cartilage injuries and now has more than 20 years of experience with surgical microfracture and related procedures. In recent years, he has closely monitored cutting-edge techniques as they’re developed for use in these acute and chronic problems.