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Managing your osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis can sometimes make daily activities challenging but there’s a lot you can do take control of your condition.

Here are some tips to help you manage your osteoarthritis:

Tip 1: Be active

Regular exercise can help reduce pain and stiffness and keep your joints flexible and your muscles strong. It’s usually best to choose ‘low impact’ exercises that don’t put extra pressure on your joint—such as walking, cycling, swimming, tai chi, and stretching and balance exercises.  Strength exercises can also help you improve your ability to do daily activities. Talk to your doctor or physio for more specific advice or to get a tailored exercise program.

Tip 2:  Manage your weight

Reaching a healthy weight is one of the best ways to reduce pain and improve your ability to do daily activities. If you are overweight, losing even a little weight, 5%, can make a real difference to reduce pain and stiffness and improve ability to complete daily activities. Losing 10% can lead to even greater improvement. Knees are load bearing joints and are particularly susceptible to the impact of excess weight. For every kilogram of weight you lose, you reduce the load and pressure on your knees by about four kilograms.

Tip 3: Eat well

Eating well is key to managing your weight. This means both choosing nutritious foods and reducing the amount of food you eat overall. Check for practical tips on healthy eating. To reduce your portion sizes, try serving your food on a smaller plate or bowl and/or search online for portion control plates with sections to guide your servings. Start with a small amount of food and then wait 20 minutes after you eat it before deciding whether to get more. Try to focus on your meal rather than watching TV or reading while you eat. Another tip is to keep a diary where you write down everything you eat or drink.

Tip 4: Pace yourself

Break up activities into smaller chunks and take breaks in between them. Give yourself time to rest. Prioritise and plan your day so that you do the things that involve the most energy or effort when you’re usually at your most alert.

Tip 5: Go easy on your joints

 Talk to your GP about a referral to an occupational therapist who can suggest special equipment to make life easier—for example a walking stick, trolley, brace or orthotics/insoles for your shoes, and sometimes other devices to help with daily tasks.

Tip 6: Don’t panic if your symptoms ‘flare-up’

While you might experience flare-ups from time to time, these more intense symptoms will usually go away again. Symptoms fluctuate over time, but flare-ups are short-term.

How well are you managing your osteoarthritis? Click here for a checklist to find out.

Read more about osteoarthritis here.

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