Doctors, nurses, physios, masseurs, friends, family, the internet; there are plenty of places to turn for advice when it comes to managing your arthritis. But what about your local pharmacist?
According to LloydsPharmacy Pharmacist Anshu Kaura, “Your pharmacist should be the first port of call because they have the knowledge and expertise to help you. As well as recommending products, your pharmacy team can give you advice without the need for an appointment..”
We liked the sound of that, so we sat down with Anshu to find out more. Keep reading for her key tips on how you can best manage the pain and stiffness of osteoarthritis.
Small tweaks to your diet can make a big difference to the management of your arthritis, as Anshu points out: “Getting your five portions of fruit and veg a day and taking vitamin supplements such as vitamin D and Calcium can help with bone strength. Controlling your blood sugar levels will always help to prevent this,” she says. “Natural sugars, found in things like fruit are okay, but artificial sugars should be avoided where possible.”
Closely linked to a healthy diet is the maintenance of a healthy body-weight. It might seem obvious but it’s something that is easy to forget when you’re living with the pain of arthritis. “If we’re maintaining a healthy weight then we’re not putting that added pressure on the joints and this in turn will help preserve the cartilage and lining of the joints which can prevent arthritis occurring.”
Regular exercise is vitally important both for your physical and mental wellbeing. We’re aware that when you’re in pain already, it can be hard to motivate yourself to get active but it doesn’t have to involve strenuous activity. Simple exercises and stretches are a great starting point. Anshu highlights the need to do, “exercises that are right for your joints and the pain you’re experiencing.”
The NHS recommends we should be doing an average of 30 minutes of moderate exercise a day. This can be anything from a brisk walk to a cycle ride. More often than not a simple exercise can be the most effective. Anshu says: “Stretching is something most of us feel we don’t have time to do in our busy lives but it can make such a big difference to our mobility if we keep our muscles moving. By doing exercise we’re strengthening and maintaining our muscles which in turn helps support the joints that are prone to wear and tear. Exercises like yoga and Pilates in particular, are good because they help to strengthen back muscles, once the muscles are strong the joints are better supported.”
If you’ve been advised to exercise but struggle with day-to-day pain, you may want to chat with your pharmacist about the way you manage your symptoms. “If you feel you’re in too much pain to exercise we’d start to look at your pain relief,” says Anshu. “We’d look at your dosage, both the amount and whether you’re taking it at the right time, to see if we can work with your prescriber to improve your situation.” Optimising the effectiveness of painkillers can make such a difference. In the short-term, it could get you in a fit state to exercise and in time, as you reap the rewards of an active lifestyle you may well be able to reduce your dosage.
Every day we place undue stress on our joints just undertaking routine tasks. It doesn’t need to be this way, as Anshu explains: “If you’re going shopping, don’t carry all your shopping in one hand, spread the weight. If you have a handbag you’ll often put this over the same shoulder which could cause repetitive pain in the same place. A rucksack is a much better option as it distributes the weight evenly. Joint care tips are important.”
Anshu also stresses the benefits of occupational aids; gadgets that can help make some daily jobs that little bit easier. In the kitchen, all manner of bottle and jar openers are now available to ease the strain on your fingers. On the mobility front, a walking stick or seat raiser are also invaluable.