Living with Osteoarthritis

For patients living with osteoarthritis, there are often significant changes to their lifestyle as a result of the condition. There are many different things that individuals should be aware of, including:

  • how to treat their body well with diet and exercise
  • occupational changes
  • medical care
  • support for living with osteoarthritis

Exercise

Patients with osteoporosis should be encouraged to keep physically active. Regular exercise helps to improve the strength of the muscles that support the bones, and to maintain a regular weight. Excessive weight can lead to worsening of symptoms due to the extra load that the bones are required to carry. For this reason, patients who are overweight should be encouraged to work towards weight loss goals.

A physiotherapist is often included as part of the healthcare team for patients with osteoarthritis. These professionals can recommend stretches and exercises that may be beneficial. These exercises should be completed regularly by the patient, usually several times each day.

Diet

Eating a healthy diet is important for everyone, but especially so for patients with a health condition such as osteoarthritis. Similar to exercise, diet is a crucial factor for patients who would benefit from losing weight. Nutrition tips that may be useful for patients with osteoarthritis include:

  • increased intake of fresh fruit and vegetables
  • reduced consumption of processed foods
  • food cooked at home whenever possible

Occupation

People with severe osteoarthritis may find that their symptoms interfere with their ability to perform tasks at their job. It is important to realize that one can use small alterations in technique or devices to increase the ease with which tasks can be completed even with osteoarthritis. An occupational therapist may be able to assist patients in recommending alternative methods to go about daily activities.

Difficulty with doing their previous work may also have the potential to cause financial difficulties for some patients with manual labor jobs. They may need to find another line of work or reduce working hours. In many countries, there are social support systems in place to help affected individuals to cope financially.

Medical Care

Depending on the severity of osteoarthritis, patients may have regular or as-needed medications to manage the pain associated with the condition. It is important for patients to be clear about how they should take their medications so that they are more likely to be adherent to the management plan.

Osteoarthritis is a chronic condition. For this reason, patients with the condition will usually need to see a health professional on a regular basis to keep track of the condition. Changes to the management plan may need to be made based on the most recent symptoms. This should continually be reviewed to provide the best care.

A positive patient-practitioner relationship is also important so that the patient can feel comfortable discussing concerns with the practitioner in an honest and open way.

Patients with osteoarthritis may also benefit from an annual influenza vaccination to provide protection from the flu. Depending on the circumstances, a pneumococcal vaccination may also be recommended for some patients.

Support

It is important for patients to have a strong support network, and someone with whom they feel comfortable discussing their day-to-day struggles and successes while living with osteoarthritis. This support may come from friends and family, a support group for people with osteoarthritis, or a trained health professional such as a counselor or psychologist.

This is particularly important for people who have experienced significant lifestyle changes as a result of the condition, which has caused or worsened symptoms of depression or anxiety. Support and encouragement from the people around them can help patients to maintain positivity and stay active with tasks that they can take part in, which in turn helps to maintain good mental health.

Reviewed by Liji Thomas, MD

References

Further Reading

Last Updated: Jan 4, 2017

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