Osteoarthritis: Elaine reveals her experience of the condition
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Characterised by joint pain, arthritis details a common condition triggered by inflammation. This condition affects people of all ages, as well as children. There are many different types of arthritis, with osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis being the two most common types. Charlotte Walker, a supporter of Arthritis Action, was diagnosed with the first prevalent type – osteoarthritis.
Being more common in women, osteoarthritis is caused by the “wear and tear” of a joint.
This type affects nearly nine million people in the UK alone.
Ms Walker received the diagnosis of osteoarthritis when she was 34, after noticing a sudden swelling in her hands.
Following an adverse reaction to her medication, she was motivated to kickstart her own research into self-management.
Now, ten years after her diagnosis, she has been in remission for five years.
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Her top tips for managing osteoarthritis include:
- Applying hot or cold packs
- Balanced diet
- Healthy lifestyle and exercise
- Talking therapies
- Meditation and hypnosis.
Applying hot or cold packs
As arthritis is characterised by pain, one of the key ways of targeting the condition focuses on reducing this culprit.
She said: “Applying heat or cold to a painful joint is an effective way to decrease pain in the body as it relieves muscle spasms or muscle tightness and improves circulation.
“Using an electric blanket can help manage flare-ups of arthritis, as well as hot water bottles for more specific areas of pain.”
When it comes to diet, research suggests that some foods could be able to alleviate pain and fight inflammation.
According to the Arthritis Foundation, the oil from fish might be able to reduce joint swelling and pain, while nuts are thought to have anti-inflammatory effects which could be helpful for a condition driven by inflammation.
However, Ms Walker shared there is no “miracle” diet and ingredients.
She said: “Eating a nutritional balanced diet, and exercising regularly will help to manage body weight.
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“Controlling body weight relieves arthritis pain as one pound of bodyweight is equal to four pounds of pressure on your joints.”
Healthy lifestyle and exercise
Exercise is one of the best-known management practices for those battling the condition.
However, Ms Walker recommended opting for a combination of aerobic exercises such as walking or swimming with strengthening training like yoga.
She added: “If you’re new to exercise, it is important to slowly increase your level of activity to avoid initial pain. Setting realistic and achievable goals for yourself is vital.”
Ms Walker suggested also attending a therapy or a peer-support group to connect with like-minded people.
She said: “The frustrations of living with an invisible disability can cause many people with arthritis to feel isolated.”
Meditation and hypnosis
Medication could help manage the joint condition through focused thinking and relaxation.
“For many it can calm your mind and break the pattern of negative thinking connected to pain,” she noted.
While self-hypnosis is “a great therapeutic tool” that could be used to manage pain, she explained.
Ms Walker added: “Over time, you can teach the brain to manage the fear and anxiety related to the pain.
“It’s very much a self-healing journey managing this condition and you’ve got to invest in yourself to see results.
“Everyone is different and therefore you need to try out new techniques to work out what is best for you.”
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