The most common form of arthritis is osteoarthritis (OA), a degenerative joint disease. It can attack any joint in the body, but the Mayo Clinic says that the most commonly affected joints are “in your hands, knees, hips, and spine.” The National Institutes of Health (NIH) reports that OA affects approximately 27 million people over the age of 25 in the United States.
Warning Signs of Osteoarthritis
Because OA is a disease that progresses slowly, according to the NIH, you’ll first notice aches and pains after exercise and when you wake in the morning. Speak to your physician immediately if you notice any of the following warning signs in your joints:
- Stiffness, particularly after resting or inactivity
- A crunching sound or feeling (such as when you bend your knees)
Your physician may order a number of tests after reviewing your history, including X-rays and an MRI if the X-rays don’t show enough detail. Sometimes it’s a matter of ruling out other diseases since these symptoms are so common among older adults.
Treatment for Osteoarthritis
There is no cure for osteoarthritis. And while such a progressive disease can become debilitating if left unchecked, many people with OA lead normal lives aided by treatments that control pain and improve joint function. The NIH outlines some typical treatment options:
- Weight control and exercise
- Rest and relief
- Drug-free pain relief and other alternative methods
Tips for Coping with Osteoarthritis
Here are a few medication-free ways to reduce pain and stay motivated:
- Healthy eating. If there’s an ultimate diet for arthritis, it’s Mediterranean. Also known as an anti-inflammatory diet, this focuses on fresh produce, fish, nuts, and beans.
- Telephone contact. Research has shown that monthly calls from a person who encourages an OA patient to continue on a self-help path aided in improvement for up to a year.
- Regular therapy. Physical and/or occupational therapy are strongly encouraged.
- Exercise. Aerobics, strength training, and water aerobics are all great ways to get your body moving.
- Weight loss. Shedding excess pounds can relieve pressure on the joints.
- Support. Walking aids, knee braces, specialized footwear, insoles, and supportive devices such as wheelchairs can make getting around more comfortable.
- Hot and cold therapy. Applying heat (including baths and hot water bottles) and/or cold (ice, or a compress) to the affected areas can provide temporary relief.
One of the best ways to ensure your safety is investing in a medical alert device. These devices make sure that help is called right away if the need arises. Whether you stay close to home, spend a lot of time outdoors, or never let your smartphone out of sight, there’s a medical alert device that fits your lifestyle. If you’re living with osteoarthritis, medical alert devices can ease your mind and help you maintain your independence.