Live with Arthritis In Easier Ways

Marta Brinkley, an occupational therapist at Andrews Institute standing in front of equipment.

- 6/18/2021

Does the change in weather affect your joints and your range of motion? During certain seasons, individuals may notice more inflammation or arthritis in the joints. That inflammation can begin like a dull ache or burning. It can also be a throbbing pain.

How do you know when joint pain is a cause for arthritis concern or it’s time to visit your doctor? Pain can occur after the overuse of a joint from doing too much exercise or moving in a way you haven’t done in a while, such as performing yardwork. Normal pains and inflammation should be temporary and go away.

However, if you begin feeling prolonged joint pain in forms of stiffness, swelling, redness and decreased mobility, make an appointment with your doctor to discuss symptoms and a care plan of action. Learn to describe your pain so a physician can determine the type of arthritis you may be experiencing.

“Arthritis is a progressive disease, meaning it worsens over time,” said Marta M. Brinkley, OTR, CHT, occupational therapist and certified hand therapist at Andrews Institute Rehabilitation. “There are varying types of arthritis, but the main ones include rheumatoid, osteoarthritis and gout.”

Andrews Institute therapists work with arthritis patients to meet their individualized needs. Most treatments start at home in the form of gentle exercise and listening to the body when pain starts. A physician may suggest supplements like calcium to improve the bones and make them stronger.

“Preserving the function of muscles and joints is vital to the success of living with arthritis,” said Brinkley. “I tell patients to respect the pain and help them devise a plan to adapt to it. Pain can become more manageable or even decrease by staying fit, controlling weight and making adjustments of daily living.”   Lower-impact exercises such as walking and swimming can be very helpful to joint health.  Joint damage occurs when working or exercising aggressively when joints are inflamed.  Progress is best made with low-impact exercises during the periods when joints are not inflamed.  When joint damage is significant, therapists can recommend adaptive equipment to aide in accomplishing dressing, cooking, and household tasks.

If exercise and diet are not enough for patients, medications and surgical options can be considered.

Individuals living with arthritis can do the following to better manage their health:

  • Track your pain – Write down when you experience it, how long it lasts, details on how it feels.
  • Take note of the foods you’ve eaten just before the pain and list any medications you’re currently on.
  • Write down the activity you were doing when you first noticed the pain or decreased range of motion.  
  • Decide the activity or thing that is most important for you to continue doing that arthritis may be preventing for you. This is a goal or lifestyle activity you can discuss with your doctor about reactivating.
  • Adjust your activity level while respecting joint pain:  Do heavier chores/exercises when joints have little to no pain.  Decrease wear and tear when joints are inflamed.
  • When you visit with your doctor, ask him or her to provide a written recap at the end of the appointment to assess how you’re doing and your next plan of action.
  • Strongly consider and complete the lab work recommendations of your doctor to gain an accurate picture of what’s happening with your health.
  • Be your own advocate and do research on options for enhancing your health when it comes to at home techniques, medication and surgical treatments.

Make a commitment to living your best life with arthritis. Andrews Institute is here to help you be as active as possible within your comfort level and lifestyle.

To schedule an appointment with an Andrews Institute occupational therapist, please contact your doctor to get an order for occupational therapy, then call our Rehabilitation line at 850.908.1555.