When you have osteoarthritis (OA), the world looks different. Every chair, gas pump, and grocery store shelf presents a new challenge and chance for a flare-up.
The world won't change to suit your OA, but you're in control of what happens at home. A few small tweaks to your daily routine may make a big difference.
If you have pain when you stand or walk, try braces or shoe inserts. They keep direct pressure off your joints. Ask your doctor for recommendations.
Stock your drawers with tools that make it easier to grip and grab objects. A buttonhook takes the pain out of shirt buttons. Scissors with spring action make it easier to cut.
Rearrange cabinets so that the heaviest objects are stored near your waist to prevent bending and adding pressure to your knees if that’s where your OA pain is located.
Osteoarthritis flare-ups don't wait for you to stand up. When you're sitting or sleeping, position pillows so that they provide support for your neck and back.
Experiment with heat and cold. Figure out which one your OA responds to best and use it to keep pain and stiffness at a minimum.
If heat does the trick, try warm baths or showers to get the blood pumping around painful joints. Twenty minutes with a heating pad also helps, as do these methods:
Moist heat pads from your local drugstore. Make your own by slipping a wet washcloth in a freezer bag. Heat it in a microwave for a few seconds, wrap it in a towel, and apply it to your skin.
Soothe achy hand joints. Rub them with mineral oil, put on rubber dishwashing gloves, and hold them under warm tap water.
Try a warm paraffin wax bath for sore hands and feet. You can buy one at drugstores and beauty supply shops. Plug in the paraffin bath to melt the wax. This can take up to 30 minutes. Dip your arm or foot in a few times to coat and wrap with a plastic bag to keep the heat in. Peel off the wax after 20 minutes.
If you have sharp pain, try something cold. Unlike heat, cold slows circulation, reduces swelling, and numbs nerve endings that send pain signals to your brain.
Cold baths are no fun, but your aching joint might like one. Parts of your body, like your hands, feet, knees, or elbows, can take a short swim in a bowl of ice and water.
Icy gel packs often come in a sleeve, which helps them surround your joint. You can make your own with a zippered plastic bag, two cups of water, and some rubbing alcohol. Or just use the old frozen bag of vegetables trick. Whatever method you use, put a 20-minute time limit on it.
And don't forget the everyday joys that shift the focus off your pain. Surround yourself with photos of people you love, spend time in the sunshine, and listen to music that makes you happy. Good smells and comfort food (but not too much!) get the positive juices flowing, as well.
Photo Credit: Alex_Doubovitsky / Getty Images
Mayo Clinic: "Osteoarthritis Self-management."
Arthritis Foundation: "Daily Living Tools and Resources."
Johns Hopkins Medicine: "How to Manage Your Osteoarthritis."
American College of Rheumatology: "Osteoarthritis."