More than two million Australians have the chronic and painful joint condition osteoarthritis.
Osteoarthritis commonly affects the hands and feet, but can affect any other joints. It is usually associated with aging, but can also result from strain caused by repetitive work, such as packing.
Sufferers whose hands are affected find it more difficult to grip things, carry heavy shopping bags, and open jars. For young to middle-aged sufferers, the effects can sometimes be reduced by daily consumption of glucosamine.
In general, the condition cannot be cured. NPS MedicineWise medical adviser Dr Jill Thistlethwaite suggests five tips to reduce the impact of this condition on daily life.
By maintaining a healthy weight, you can help prevent osteoarthritis from getting worse, and reduce pain and disability. For every kilogram of body weight lost, there is up to a four kilogram reduction in the load exerted on the knee.
Many people are nervous that regular exercise might make their condition worse, but in fact exercise has proven to be one of the most effective treatments. It can help decrease pain, fatigue and stress, and improve mobility and flexibility of joints. The best forms of exercise are low-impact options such as walking, water activities, Tai Chi, Pilates, cycling and dancing.
Mindfulness activities, such as meditation, have been shown to lessen arthritis pain. Changing your thoughts about pain can change how your body responds. Psychological approaches such as cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) and hypnotherapy can be useful.
Balance your life
Carefully plan and organise activities throughout the day to help you make the most of your energy.
Plan your day so that you can switch between periods of activity and periods of rest.
When you have a large task to do, such as preparing a meal or cleaning a room, break the job into smaller tasks.
Complete tasks one at a time, following each with a rest break.
Do the hardest jobs when you are feeling your best.
Protect your joints
Many gadgets and aids can make your daily activities simpler and less tiring, protecting your joints by reducing the effort you have to put in. Examples include:
ergonomic knives to make cutting and slicing easier
adapted cutlery and cooking utensils to allow easy gripping
equipment to help with opening jars or bottles, and turning on taps
For more information, please visit www.nps.org.au/medical-info/consumer-info/managing-osteoarthritis.