Rheumatoid arthritis and other arthritic conditions can have an impact on your daily life. Meet three people with arthritis and learn how they manage their joint pain.
How does arthritis affect your daily life? Considering that “arthritis” includes over 100 conditions, this single question has many answers. From gout to osteoarthritis, we asked people to share their coping strategies. Whether they are at home, at work or at play, these people have something important in common; they’re all proactive about keeping their joints healthy!
1. Work: All I have to do is look…
Registered nurse Beverly Mishkin, 58, of Voorhees, NJ, isn’t afraid to ask for help when she needs it. And help goes a long way toward helping her cope with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). “When I was first diagnosed,” Beverly recalls, “I had flu-like symptoms. I was feeling fatigued and my joints were achy.”
Even though she takes medication to manage her symptoms, Beverly’s RA often acts up at work. “My job is extremely physical, which can sometimes be painful.” That’s where her ability to ask for help comes in. “I sometimes need a hand with my hands.”
In fact, Beverly’s biggest challenge is the limited mobility of her hands. “I have lost the ability to twist and turn my hands—so it’s hard to open things,” she says. But, she found a solution. “Wearing latex gloves strengthens my grip,” she says. Breaking the seals on sterile medical supplies and bottled medications can also pose problems. But she’s got her solution at the ready. “All I have to do is look at one of my co-workers and he or she knows I’m having trouble,” she says. “My co-workers will always say, ‘Let me open it.’ ”
2. Play: On my to-do list…
“I’d like to chase after my grandchildren and plant tulips,” says Barbara Malone, 61, of Greenville, SC. “They’re on my to-do list.” Five years ago, Barbara was diagnosed with osteoarthritis (OA) of the knee, a disease in which knee-joint cartilage slowly begins to wear away.
“I’ve been having pain for quite some time,” she says, “and can’t put any weight on my knees.” And that’s gotten in the way of having fun. “I don’t plan outings at the mall, to movies or to concerts now,” says Barbara. But she is hoping to plan such outings again soon. That’s because Barbara’s doctors have suggested knee-replacement surgery and given her a very positive prognosis for recovery. She is committed to having the surgery, and she’s optimistic that it will all be worth it. “I hope to have lots more options about where I go and what I can do with my new knee.”
3. Sleep: These changes make a big difference…
Taking an anti-inflammatory medication at bedtime and making dietary adjustments have helped John S. Clark, 46, of Norcross, GA, sleep more soundly. “When I was first diagnosed with gout,” he says, “it would sometimes be difficult to fall asleep.”
Gout is a disease marked by elevated levels of uric acid in the blood. Many people develop gout in their big toe, and flare-ups can make it difficult to walk, let alone sleep. “I would get a tight feeling in my ankles when my toe joint was hurting that would keep me up at night,” says John, a manager of a radio broadcasting network for Clear Channel.
John dumped all fast food—which he really enjoyed—from his diet, started eating more fruits and vegetables, and included more cranberry juice, which is thought to ease inflammation.
“But what really helped was water,” he says. “I started drinking more water and that did a lot to keep the inflammation under control.”
Then, four years after his diagnosis, the gout in John’s right big toe became so inflamed that it required surgery. After surgery and with the right medication, John’s condition has greatly improved. “The changes to my diet also make a big difference.”