By taking an active role in understanding and treating your conditions, you will experience less pain and stay more active than those who feel there is nothing they can do.
Here is our 10 steps checklist to help you live with arthritis.
1. Take control by knowing your disease
Spend the time to understand your rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and then discover the best ways to improve your condition.
Many people with arthritis say that learning about their arthritis and what they can do about it gives them back a feeling of control over their lives and their health.
2. Don’t delay, see your doctor
Because arthritis can get worse if left untreated, you need to see your doctor as early as possible to get a proper diagnosis. This will help you understand your arthritis and develop a plan for managing it. Early diagnosis and treatment can limit the effects of arthritis on your life and help you stay active and independent.
3. Work with your healthcare team and be an important part of it.
The best way to live well with arthritis is by working closely with your healthcare team. It may include a variety of healthcare specialists, such as doctors, especially your GP and rheumatologist (a specialist in conditions that affect the joints and the structures around them), pharmacists, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, podiatrists, nurses, psychologists and complementary medicine practitioners.
Remember, you are the most important member of your healthcare team. Make sure you establish and maintain good communication with all the other members.
4. Know about your treatment options.
There are many treatments to relieve pain and stiffness and slow the development of your arthritis. Work with your healthcare team to find a combination of treatments that best suits your arthritis, the joints affected, the amount of pain or other symptoms you experience and your lifestyle.
5. Find new ways to stay active.
Research has found that regular exercise is one of the most effective treatments for arthritis. It also helps to improve your overall health.
Not all forms of exercise are appropriate for RA. Before you start to exercise, it is important to ask your doctor and healthcare team to help you develop a program that will suit your arthritis, general health and lifestyle.
6. Learn techniques to help manage your pain
There are many techniques you can use to cope with pain so you can go on living your life the way you want to. What works for one person may not work for another, so you may have to try different techniques until you find what works best for you. See Dealing with pain.
7. Acknowledge your feelings and seek support.
It is natural to feel frustrated, angry, scared and even depressed at the prospect of having arthritis. There are many people who can help you deal with the emotional side of arthritis, including family and friends, counsellors or psychologists. Remember don’t try to go it alone, get some help.
8. Make food choices that count.
There are many myths about food and arthritis. However, no diet has been proven by research to cure arthritis and there is very little scientific evidence that specific foods have an effect on arthritis.
9. Balance your life.
When you have arthritis you need to find the right balance between work, activity and rest. Learn how to pace yourself to make the most of your energy and about equipment that you can use to make daily tasks easier.
10. Call your local State/Territory Arthritis Office.
Learn about the regular information sessions and arthritis self-management courses run by your local Arthritis Office. These will introduce you to a wide range of skills and small changes you can make that can lessen the impact of arthritis on your life.
For more detailed information, see our booklet 10 steps for living well with arthritis below.