We asked patients living with rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, fibromyalgia, gout and lupus how they cope.
Sometimes, it’s nice to have support from others who really “get it”—people facing the same kinds of challenges as you. So we asked your peers to share their favorite everyday tips. Just check with your doctor before trying them.
“Join an RA Facebook group”
When Marianne Hoynes, 51, of Ocean Grove, NJ, was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) in 2007, she couldn’t find a support group near her; luckily, she found one online. On Facebook, Marianne joined groups such as Fighting Rheumatoid Arthritis and Arthritis Introspective.
“It’s a wonderful way to become self-empowered,” says Marianne. “I often found out about symptoms that I would never have associated with RA—for instance, I had pain in my chest, where it hurt to inhale. I learned from one group it was costochondritis, an inflammation of the chest wall. Who knew the chest had so much cartilage that it could get inflamed?!” she says. “I spoke to my doctor and got treatment!”
Osteoarthritis: "Find a joint-friendly exercise"
A bad fall and a surfing injury added to the wear and tear on Leslie Nolan’s knees, diagnosed as osteoarthritis five years ago. “I could barely climb stairs without having to pull myself up by the handrail,” recalls the Wall, NJ, artist, 50. “Then I started with slow restorative yoga and water classes. The more I exercise, the better off I am.” Happily, her recovered flexibility helps her keep up with 2-year-old Roshawn, her soon-to-be-adopted foster child. “Now I can walk upstairs holding my little boy’s hand!”
Osteoporosis: "Lift dumbbells—or your pet!"
Because her mom struggled with osteoporosis, Joan Siegel, 67, knows how important it is to keep her own thinning bones strong. Along with daily walks around a nearby lake, the Blooming Grove, NY, resident fits in an upper body-strengthening routine to shore up fracture-prone areas like the wrists and spine.
Exercises include push-ups and overhead lifts with a 6-pound weight in each hand while lying on the floor. “And I always do this move: I sit up on the floor holding each dumbbell in front of me, then slowly lower my back, vertebra by vertebra, tightening my core muscles.”
Says Joan, “My sessions last as long as the cats allow—we have nine, including Big Fred. I’m always picking them up, so that counts as a weight-bearing exercise, too!”
Fibromyalgia: "Repeat this mantra"
“It’s okay, I’m doing what I can.” That’s what fibromyalgia sufferer Tom Hintz, 63, of Appleton, WI, tells himself when fuzzy thinking, or “fibro fog,” plagues him on the golf course. “I’m type A and want to accomplish things,” says Tom. “When fibro fog sets in, I’m suddenly not making the putts I should and get just plain bad.”
But he refuses to throw in the 9-iron. “I play team golf and would never leave the course. I may play slowly, even terribly, but I don’t stop. I just tell myself, Tom, you’ve got fibromyalgia and you’re doing what you can; just accept it.”
Gout: "Use a pint glass!"
For gout sufferer Martin Farawell, 56, remembering to drink enough water isn’t a problem anymore. He learned his lesson the hard way several years ago during a week of holiday car rides from his home in Milford, PA, to family in Columbus, OH) when severe pain struck his ankles and feet. “I realized I hadn’t been drinking much water, to avoid stopping on the drive,” he recalls.
Yet adequate hydration helps to flush uric acid—a substance that builds up in the joints and is the culprit behind gout pain—from the body. So these days, Martin swears by his pint glass. “I keep it on my desk to remind myself to fill it at least four times a day so I can get in two quarts.”
Lupus: "ID your downtime"
When Sara Gorman of Alexandria, VA, was diagnosed with lupus in 2001, “I expended too much energy ‘fighting’ it,” says the now 39-year-old mom of two young daughters. “But the sooner you embrace the disease, the sooner you can start to live well.” One big lesson she’s learned: “No matter where I am or where I’m going, I make sure that I can take a nap from 2 to 4,” says Sara, the author of Despite Lupus. “After I started taking those two hours, I got the rest of my day back.”
If you can’t fit in a nap on the job, Sara gives this suggestion: “Try eating lunch at your desk while working, and then take your lunch hour to get in a little snooze—either in a quiet spot at the office, at a nearby park or running home to catch a few winks. If a full hour isn’t feasible, three small breaks throughout the day will still help you recharge!”