When you have osteoarthritis, you may find it hard to do your daily tasks. Your joints may ache or feel stiff, and they may hurt when you move. You can do some things at home to feel better.
- Rest. If your joints hurt a lot or are swollen, take a break. But try not to let too much time pass before you get moving again. A lack of activity can cause your muscles and joints to become weak.
- Stay at a healthy weight. Being overweight puts extra stress on your joints. But losing weight can help. And when even a small amount of weight loss is combined with exercise, it often works better to reduce pain and get the joint working better again than if only weight loss or exercise is done.2
- Exercise. Some people may be reluctant to exercise when they have arthritis, but it can help reduce pain and improve balance. For example:
- Walking and lifting weights can help older adults who have arthritis improve their posture and balance, and prevent falls.3
- People who take part in an exercise class and who also exercise at home have less pain when they walk. And they're more likely to keep exercising even after the class ends.4
Try exercises that don't put a lot of stress on your joints, such as swimming, biking, walking, water exercises, and lifting light weights. Make sure to talk to your doctor or physical therapist about what kind of activity is best for you.
- Osteoarthritis: Exercising With Arthritis
- Use assistive devices and orthotics. There are devices and tools that can take the stress and weight off of your joints and make it easier for you to hold objects, open and close things, and walk. For example, doorknob covers, tape, braces, splints, and canes may help.
Change how you do things
- Protect your joints. There are some things that you can do to protect your joints. For example:
- Try not to do tasks that cause pain or swelling in joints.
- Use the largest joints or strongest muscles to do things. For example, when you lift a heavy object off the floor, use your hip and knee muscles, not your back. Or when you carry a bag of groceries, use the palm of your hand or your forearm instead of grasping it with your fingers.
- Change activities. If your joints hurt when you do an activity, try other ways of doing it that don't cause pain. For example, walk instead of jog. Or use a sewing machine to make a quilt instead of making it by hand.
- Modify your home and work area. If you have a hard time moving around or if you get tired easily, try making some changes in your home and work areas. For example, use a reacher to pick up things off the floor. Or for tasks that you would normally do standing up, use a tall stool instead so you can sit down.
- Maintain good posture. Poor posture puts stress on your back and neck. The key to good posture is to keep the right amount of curve in your lower back. Too much curve (swayback) or too little (flat back) can cause problems. Having good posture can help reduce pain.
- Wear comfortable and supportive shoes. If you have arthritis of the knee or back, wedged insoles or cushioned shoes may help reduce the stress on the joint by shifting weight off of it.
Use medicine and heat or cold
One Woman's Story:
"Gardening books and magazines always have wonderful ideas and innovations that you can use. For instance, I've cut off sections of the rubber insulation that is used to cover water pipes and slipped them over any of the garden tools that I'm going to use, because it gives me a little more cushion and a little extra width for my tools."—Bev
Read more about Bev and how she learned to cope with arthritis.
Coping and support
Living with arthritis can be stressful. At times you may feel overwhelmed, tired, and angry. And you may worry about what your life may be like as your condition gets worse. These feelings are normal. But there are a lot of ways to cope with arthritis. For example, ask for help when you need it, keep a positive attitude, and join a support group.
If you are caring for someone who has arthritis, be sure to take time to care for yourself and find ways to manage stress. Being a caregiver isn't easy. But it can be rewarding, especially when you know that your care makes a positive difference in someone's life.