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Taking care of your joints


Getting older implies two things, you are less mobile and your joints ache. As well as medication and exercise, there are things you can do every day to help deal with the pain and stiffness and take good care of your joints.
How to reduce stress on your joints
• Keep to your ideal weight (see advice on diet, below).
• Pace your activities throughout the day - don't tackle hard physical jobs all at once.
• Think about your movements - what makes things worse?
• Avoid activities that put stress on your joints.
• Wear shoes with thick soft soles, which act as shock absorbers.
• Consider using equipment or modifying your home and workplace to help you avoid stressful movements.
Dealing with pain
As well as medication, there are simple ways in which you can treat your painful joints.
Warmth applied to the affected area can relieve pain and stiffness. Some people buy special heat lamps or creams that produce localised heat, but a hot water bottle can be just as effective. Make sure it's wrapped in something so it doesn't burn you.
An ice pack can bring relief to hot and inflamed joints, but you should seek advice from a physiotherapist first. Never apply ice directly to the skin - it can burn.
Stress and muscle tension can make arthritis seem much worse. Many people find that taking a long bath, listening to soothing music or using a relaxation tape can help. A physiotherapist will be able to advise you on relaxation techniques.
Eat healthily
Your body needs a variety of nutrients to stay healthy, so make sure you get lots of fruit and vegetables, meat, fish and beans, dairy foods and cereals such as bread, rice and pasta. This is what is meant by a balanced diet.
Generally, we tend to eat too much fatty and sugary food, such as cakes and chips, and not enough fruit and vegetables. Reducing the former and increasing the latter is often the key to losing weight as well as improving health.
Special diets
There are many theories about whether what you eat affects your arthritis. As yet there's little scientific evidence to suggest that it does, but some doctors feel special diets are worth trying as long as they don't mean missing out on vital nutrients.
If you're considering going on a special diet for your arthritis, it's important to discuss it with your doctor first.
Some people with arthritis find their condition improves when they give up certain foods. One theory is that this is because of a food allergy or food intolerance.
There are many tests for determining allergies or intolerances, but the only reliable way of identifying foods that could be making your arthritis worse is by systematically excluding them from your diet. This should be done with the knowledge of your doctor.
Helpful foods
There are theories that certain foods and dietary supplements may help arthritis. Some have been tested more than others. For example, there's evidence that the essential fatty acids found in fish oil and plant seed oils, such as sunflower oil and evening primrose oil, may help some people with rheumatoid arthritis.
Other supplements you may hear about include green-lipped mussels, selenium and garlic. However, there's little scientific evidence of these having positive effects.
You should discuss taking such supplements with your doctor.
Jim Mavromatis
State Rep Men’s Peer Health Education

 

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Last modified: Tuesday May 09, 2006  
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