“I’m Glad I Tried This!”

Read on for the gems that might just help you find pain relief.

Kristina Mastrocola
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We asked folks like you living with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and other forms of arthritis for the most helpful insight they ever got from a relative or friend. Here's what they said:

1. “Bang on the piano!”
When retired teacher Mauricia Spring, 58, was diagnosed with RA as a 1-year-old, her parents were told she’d never be able to walk. Yet her Great Uncle Morris refused to let the diagnosis keep her sidelined. Morris made sure his niece stayed active until she was not only walking, but taking ballet!

His most surprising advice to help her stay limber? “He suggested I learn to play the piano as a child to keep the joints in my hands flexible. I played for a long time—I wasn’t very good, but I played,” she says with a laugh. “I really owe my perseverance to Uncle Morris.” That, and her love of music: “It wasn’t just good for my joints—it was a great way to relieve stress, too.”

Make it work for you by: Making some noise!
No need to learn the piano for this benefit. Playing any instrument can help improve dexterity and strengthen your fingers and wrists. Not a budding musician? You can get the same effects by squeezing a tennis ball or twirling a scarf with your hand and wrist.

2. “Reduce the ‘load vector’ on your knee”
“My sister Sherry is a doctor, and she gave me the best advice two years ago when I learned I had osteoarthritis in my knee,” recalls novelist Diana Rowland, 45, of Mandaville, LA. “She said, ‘You need to reduce the load vector on your knee.’” Translation? “It was a nice way of saying I should lose weight!” she laughs. “So I changed my diet—lots of veggies, fewer carbs and no processed foods.”

The one surprising thing that stayed on her menu? “Fat! I’m not afraid of it! It keeps me satisfied longer so I don’t have cravings, and it helps my energy stay up for exercise—I even have eggs and bacon for breakfast occasionally. I’ve lost 15 pounds and it’s made all the difference.”

Make it work for you by: Being picky!
It’s true! Choosing the right fat—the monounsaturated kind—is almost as important as eating fruits, veggies, whole grains and so on. They not only help lower cholesterol but can also help reduce the inflammation of arthritis. Avocados are especially high in the fat, so whip up some guacamole. Don’t love avocados? Get your monounsaturated fats from other rich sources, such as peanut butter, olive oil and almonds.   

April 2013