Growing older: Living with arthritis? Keep moving

It can be a challenge to live with the aches and pains of arthritis. Fortunately, medical treatment, exercise programs and simple home practices can combine to provide relief from pain and greater mobility for activities like bathing, dressing, walking, cooking and, yes, swimming and dancing.

Some people with degenerative osteoarthritis, the most common form, or with one of the more than 100 other arthritic conditions, retire prematurely and become depressed, less active and more dissatisfied with life. Others remain as active as possible and persevere through pain, fatigue and discouragement.

The Northern California Chapter of the Arthritis Foundation (AF) has many resources that can help brighten your outlook, maintain independence and expand social interaction. They offer publications, including free brochures that can be downloaded from their Web site, for example, on how to manage health care, pain, fatigue and activities. They also offer local programs like water exercise, and next year will offer an exercise and a walk-with-ease program. Their activities are geared toward each person’s capabilities and pace, and they provide the added value of group encouragement.

Effectively and safely minimizing pain and loss of motion is the key to keeping up an independent and active lifestyle. People often find relief and resume basic activities like washing their own hair and driving after engaging in proven and customized activities in a short period of time. AF’s water exercise program, for example, helps relieve pain and increases range of motion. Participants, literally buoyed up and soothed, find themselves improving their mobility in a fun environment with a trained instructor and other water exercisers.

Following are some practical tips from nurses and social workers who serve people with arthritis:

Move your joints, to exercise even your hands.

If they are sore, run warm water over them until they become more flexible. Save dish washing until the morning when fingers can be very stiff. The warm dish water and washing movements help loosen joints and relieve pain.

Pace your activities. People try to get everything done in the morning or while they feel good, and wear themselves out. If they simply paced themselves throughout the day, they would probably accomplish more and feel better and less fatigued.

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