by Lovena Suson | Apr 8, 2021 | Pain Management
Do You Struggle with Stiff Joints? 13 Ways to Find Relief
Young and old, joint stiffness seems to plague us all. No matter how intense or sedentary our activities may be, we all experience it at some point.
Do your hips and knees feel stiff when you wake up in the morning? Do you struggle to stand up after watching a long movie? There are several reasons why prolonged inactivity may cause such symptoms.
One of the most common reason is arthritis. You may have osteoarthritis, which affects many older adults as the result of the joints experiencing years of ordinary wear and tear. If you’re younger, you may have rheumatoid arthritis or related conditions involving your immune system.
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Duration can be a simple way to distinguish between the two. Stiffness related to osteoarthritis typically eases up in about 15 minutes or less while symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis tend to last much longer.
Whatever the cause, morning stiffness can usually be eliminated or reduced. Try these strategies for finding relief.
Medical Treatment for Morning Stiffness:
- See your doctor. Your doctor will perform blood tests and examine your joints to make a diagnosis. They will also ask you about your medical history because genetics and injuries could increase your risk for arthritis.
- Consult a specialist. You may be referred to a rheumatologist. They are specialists in autoimmune conditions who can help you to develop a treatment plan.
- Take medication. There are many over-the-counter and prescription drugs to help relieve arthritis pain. Depending on your diagnosis, anti-rheumatic drugs may also be an option.
- Get referred to physical therapy. Learning to move safely without damaging your joints can make you more comfortable and independent. A physical therapist will provide exercises to help you with daily activities.
Some approaches that a physical therapist may use include therapeutic exercises, manual therapeutics that can include joint mobilization to regain joint motion, soft tissue mobilization to release muscle tightness that can hinder movement, or relieve muscle spasms. A physical therapist also has an arsenal of modalities for pain relief. This can be ultrasound, electrotherapeutic point stimulation, low-level laser or phototherapy, Kinesiotaping (or KT Taping), and much more. Consult with a therapist. You can always get a referral from your primary physician, rheumatologist, neurologist, or internist. Nowadays you can also get a referral from a Nurse practitioner or a physician assistant. Check with your insurance.
Home Remedies for Morning Stiffness:
- Lose weight. Excess pounds strain your joints, as well as your heart. Lighten up with healthy eating and regular exercise.
- Build strength. While it’s impossible to replace the cartilage you lose with age, you can increase your muscle mass. Lift weights or do floor exercises that use your body weight for resistance. Strong muscles give your joints extra support.
- Increase flexibility. Safe stretching fights stiffness too by loosening tendons that naturally tighten when you sleep or sit still. Practice yoga or do leg and arm stretches while you watch TV.
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- Change your diet. There’s little evidence to support claims about expensive supplements and miracle foods that cure arthritis. On the other hand, a diet low in processed foods and rich in nutrients limits inflammation. Eat more fatty fish, nuts, green vegetables, and cherries.
- Sleep well. Adequate rest is essential for healing. Go to bed and wake up on a regular schedule. Darken your bedroom and block out background noise with a fan or white noise machine.
- Manage stress. Chronic tension can aggravate arthritis and any mental or physical condition. Relax with gentle music, meditation, or a warm bath.
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- Apply heat. For pain relief without drugs, apply a warm compress to your sore hips or shoulders. Long-standing injuries usually respond more successfully to heat while ice is recommended for the first couple of days after a new event.
- Keep moving. Prevention is a sound strategy. As the saying goes, “An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure!”. When possible, take frequent breaks when you know you’ll be stuck in one place for a while. Shift your sleep position during the night and walk around while you’re on the phone.
Taking care of your joints will help you to sleep more restfully at night and move more comfortably in the morning and throughout the day. Maintain a healthy weight, avoid fatigue, and talk with your doctor if you need more assistance.
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by Lovena Suson | Mar 31, 2021 | Pain Management, Senior Health
Gout used to be called the disease of kings, but now it affects more than 8 million Americans from all walks of life. It’s a form of arthritis that can be very uncomfortable and a little tricky to diagnose because its symptoms are similar to several other joint conditions. It is characterized by too much uric acid in the bloodstream and joints causing it to be crystallized and deposited in the joints.
Gout can flare up commonly at night. It is a flare-up. It is very common in the base of the big toe. It is very painful and can cause a very painful gait, difficulty wearing shoes,. Most patients describe it as a sharp, throbbing pain especially with standing up for a long time or walking.
Men are 3 times more likely to develop gout than women, and you could also be at high risk depending on your family history, drinking habits, and other factors.
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Gout usually responds well to medication and lifestyle changes. While most attacks will run their course in a few days to a few weeks, proper treatment can also relieve many of the most troubling symptoms and reduce joint damage.
Learn how to live more comfortably with gout. Understanding your medical options and recommended lifestyle changes can help you to manage your condition.
Medical Care for Managing Gout:
Understand the causes. Your body usually removes excess uric acid when you urinate, but sometimes it can accumulate in your blood and start to form needle-like crystals in your joints. This can be due to your diet or to your body making too much uric acid on its own.
- Spot the symptoms. Many gout patients notice tingling or other sensations before an attack during which the affected joint becomes red, swollen, and painful. In some cases, your joints can be so sensitive that even the pressure of a bed sheet or a breeze can be irritating. 👉👉👉Powerful Pain Relief Through Meditation
- See a specialist. To develop your treatment plan, your doctor may refer you to a rheumatologist. That’s a doctor who specializes in diseases that affect joints, muscles, and bones.
- Get diagnosed. Your doctor may order several tests, but a joint fluid test is the most conclusive. By drawing fluid from your joint and looking at it under a microscope, they’ll be able to tell if the urate crystals associated with gout are present.
- Take medication. There are numerous drugs now available that can treat gout attacks, relieve pain and complications, and help prevent future attacks. Your doctor may also adjust your medication over time if your symptoms change.
- Apply ice. If you want to try managing your pain without medication, it may help to apply ice or cold compresses to sore joints. Keep a cloth or other barrier between the ice and your skin. Foot soaks with Epsom salts have relieved some of my patient’s symptoms. There are commercial portable foot baths now available in drug stores and pharmacies. Some have a whirlpool-like function that is quite soothing to inflamed joints of the foot and even ankles. You can add ice cubes to the water for cooling. 👉👉👉SAUNA VS. ICE BATH: Which One Works Better?
- Continue monitoring. Measuring uric acid levels is an important part of managing gout. Ask your doctor to set up a schedule of regular appointments, so you can stay on track.
Lifestyle Changes for Managing Gout:
- Limit alcohol. Beverages and foods high in a substance called purine can trigger gout attacks. That includes alcohol, especially beer.
- Avoid certain foods. Foods rich in purine include organ meats, red meats, game meats, and some seafood. Some fishes such as tuna, mackerel, anchovies, sardines have a high purine content and should be taken in less quantity and frequency.
- Even salmon is also in this category. Scallops, beer, sugary drinks, high-fat dairy products are also some that have to be avoided. Even some vegetables have a high purine content: asparagus, cauliflower, and spinach. Some fruits that also have a high purine content are dates, prunes, lychees, plums, cherries, and pears.- Check labels for high fructose corn syrup and other sweeteners too. While they’re not high in purine, they can trigger gout attacks.
- Eat healthily. Most of the foods that may help lower uric acid levels are suitable for any balanced diet. That includes vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, whole grains, dairy products, and eggs.
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- Drink water. Staying well-hydrated can also help your body to remove uric acid more efficiently. Drink water with meals and carry a bottle around with you.
- Lose weight. Obesity and related conditions like diabetes greatly increase your risk for gout. Shed pounds gradually with a lower calorie diet and regular exercise.
Great progress has been made in treating gout in recent years. Talk with your doctor about your options and control your symptoms by adjusting your diet, limiting alcohol, and losing any excess weight.
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by Lovena Suson | Mar 28, 2021 | Pain Management, Senior Health
Relieve Arthritis Pain With These Fun Exercises
For many years, people with arthritis were warned to limit their activities to protect their joints. Now, studies show that exercise actually helps ease arthritis pain and stiffness.
Here are some major benefits of exercising with arthritis, and suggestions for how to work out safely.
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The Benefits of Exercising:
1. Maximize your range of motion. People with arthritis often try to cope with the pain by holding their joints in bent positions that feel more comfortable. Unfortunately, this causes further loss of mobility Exercise helps to keep your joints as flexible as possible and prevent further damage.
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There are many gadgets you can use for strengthening your hands: Stress balls, hand gripper exercises, finger bands, etc. Ask a therapist about exercise programs for painful arthritic hands.
2. Strengthen your muscles and bones. Strong muscles and bones provide more support and protection for fragile joints. Weight-bearing exercises build up muscle and thicken your bones.
3. Lose excess weight. You burn a lot more calories when you’re moving around, which of course helps with weight loss. A more active lifestyle will help you reach and maintain your ideal weight without resorting to dangerously low-calorie diets.
4. Improve cardiovascular fitness. Endurance exercises that are gentle on your joints will make your heart work more efficiently without aggravating your arthritis. You’ll feel more energetic and reduce your risk for many health conditions including heart disease and obesity.
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5. Make daily activities easier. Stiff joints interfere with daily pleasures and tasks, from playing with your grandchildren to just buttoning a shirt. Exercise improves your ability to function and live independently.
6. Boost your mood. Living with chronic pain may cause depression. Physical activity elevates your mood and helps you sleep better. You can even make new friends by enrolling in group classes like Tai chi or water aerobics.
Top Exercises for Arthritis:
1. Design a balanced program. A well-designed fitness program includes exercises for flexibility, strength, and endurance. Stop what you’re doing if you feel any sharp pain. This conventional wisdom for exercisers is even more important when dealing with arthritis.
2. Stretch. Daily flexibility moves will help restore your range of motion. Warm-up with a little walking in place and do these exercises in a controlled manner. One simple stretch for fingers is to massage your hands. Then, alternate extending and closing your fingers into a loose fist.
3. Train for strength. Strengthen your muscles with resistance exercises using weights, elastic bands, or your own body weight. For example, target your knees by sitting in a chair and slowly straightening and bending each leg.
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4. Perform low-impact aerobics. Walking, aqua aerobics and stationary bicycles are just a few examples of endurance activities that are easy on your body. Exercising in warm water is especially good because the temperature and buoyancy protect damaged joints.
Additional Safety Tips:
1. Talk with your doctor. Be sure to talk with your doctor before beginning an exercise program to find the best approach for your type of arthritis. Your physician can recommend safe activities and help you avoid injury.
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2. Build up gradually. Start conservatively and progress gradually. When you’re comfortable with walking in water, you may want to add more intense movements like leg lifts.
3. Modify your workouts during flare-ups. Your doctor can advise you about exercising during flare-ups. You may need to rest or modify your program to alleviate pressure on the affected joints.
4. Find the best time of day for you. Many people experience morning stiffness, so experiment to find the best time of day for you. Taking a warm shower first or using a heat pack may also make exercising more comfortable.
5. Work with physical or occupational therapists. Therapists with experience working with arthritis can provide more guidance. They can help you learn to move safely during your workouts and all your daily activities.
Exercise makes it easier to live with arthritis. Manage your pain and stay healthy with safe and regular workouts using activities that you enjoy.
by Lovena Suson | Mar 21, 2021 | Physical Therapy, Senior Health
I came across a patient who we see for joint pains. This prompted this article to also hopefully reach those with the same condition: Rheumatoid Arthritis.
Rheumatoid Arthritis or RA: When your immune system attacks your own joints. Individuals with RA know the impact of this affliction on daily living. Waking up with swollen, painful, and stiff joints making even the most menial task of dressing, getting out of bed, tedious.
When it comes to rheumatoid arthritis, sore fingers, hands, knees, and stiff hips and legs may be the first thing that comes to mind. There are invisible symptoms however that can be just as troubling. About 75% of patients say they experience fatigue, weakness, and insomnia. Restlessness and waking up at night from pain can lead to sleepless nights having one wake up already tired and dreading the day ahead.
Rheumatoid arthritis is a systemic condition that affects the whole body and not just the joints. Left untreated, it can lead to permanent joint damage such as crooked hands and fingers, nodules on the joints of the fingers and wrist making gripping, grasping, lifting painful and difficult. Patients also report this condition heightens stress levels which can even affect relationships due to limited ability to perform tasks of daily living.
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Patients report fatigue which experts believe is caused by antibodies that circulating through the blood and triggers inflammation.
A troubling cycle is triggered where physical discomfort interferes with sleep. Lack of sleep makes daily activities more difficult to bear. Patients report feeling “dense” in the head, sluggish, or drowsy during the day. This often results in fatigue where an individual is less likely to do daily chores and become sedentary. As we know, a sedentary life further causes weakness which ultimately results in poor balance and inability to walk better or far. In a worst-case scenario, this is another major cause of falling in older adults.
Do not let Rheumatoid Arthritis hold you back, however. There are ways to take care of yourself despite this progressive condition. As I always tell my patients, it is your health. Take charge!
Learn more about lifestyle changes and medical treatments that can boost your energy.
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Simple lifestyle changes can make rheumatoid arthritis easier to deal with.
Self-care can help you manage pain, fatigue, and other symptoms:
- Regular Exercise. Many dislike exercise. How can you motivate yourself to work out when it’s a struggle just to stand up? Remember that physical training provides long-term relief as you strengthen your muscles, extend your range of motion, and brighten your mood.
A simple walk daily around your neighborhood or simple stretches before getting out of bed can make a difference. Here are a few easy tips you can do easily:
A. Heel and Toe Raises – Hold on to your kitchen counter, dresser, back of the chair, or anywhere to steady yourself. Go up on your toes. Hold this for 5 seconds. Then go on your heels and raise your toes up and hold the same for another 5 seconds. Repeat this move 10 times, or more as you are able. You can do these exercises as many times as you can throughout the day.
B. Seated Marching –Sit towards the edge of a chair with good upright posture. Begin by raising up one arm and the opposite side leg as shown. Lower arm and leg back down and then raise the opposite sides as you alternate back and forth.
C. Hand Exercises. Hand movements are very important for daily tasks. We use our hands so much in everything we do. With RA or rheumatoid arthritis, if left alone, finger and hand joints can become very stiff especially early morning upon waking up. These hand exercises can help move the fingers of the hands to alleviate stiffness.
Finger Walking (Hand OA/RA Exercise)
Place the hand flat with the fingers spread. Start by moving the thumb outwards. Then move each finger towards the thumb, joining the fingers together one at a time. The palm can come off the table.
There are many more exercises that a Physical Therapist or Occupational Therapist can help you with exercises. Ask your primary physician for a referral to any of these professionals.
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- Healthy eating. Choose foods that have anti-inflammatory effects. Green leafy vegetables such as spinach, collards, kale, etc. Tomatoes, olive oil are also good to have in your diet. Almonds and walnuts are also known to fight joint pain and inflammation. Fatty fish (tuna, salmon, sardines, mackerel). That also includes most fruits like strawberries, blueberries, oranges, cherries, and others. WHAT TO AVOID: Processed meats, sodas, fried foods, refined carbs, and lard.
- Stay hydrated. Fatigue is a common sign of dehydration. It’s especially important to drink enough water. (Rule of thumb is 8 x 8 rule, eight 8-ounce glasses, which equals about 2 liters, or half a gallon a day. This is called the 8×8 rule and is very easy to remember. when you have a condition like rheumatoid arthritis that can worsen such symptoms.
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- Reorganize your home. Energy can be conserved by making your living space more efficient where you can easily access things when you need them. These are called energy conservation strategies. By making your home and office more user-friendly and accessible, you are able to do your daily tasks with less exertion. Place items that you use frequently within reach. Get a small cart with wheels for moving supplies from one room to another. You can also use your walker with a seat, or a rolling office chair where items can be placed instead of carried. Be creative and innovative within your home environment. 👉👉👉 6 Quick Stress Relief Tips With Reflexology
- Make time for your ZZZ’s. Sleeping more may not eliminate fatigue, but it can help. Aim to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day. Keep your bedroom dark and quiet. If you are a music lover, lull yourself to sleep listening to peaceful, meditative type music or instrumentals. Youtube has many collections which can play for hours. If you are the techie type, have Alexa do your music selection.
“Choosing to be positive and having a grateful attitude is going to determine how you’re going to live your life. – Joel Osteen
***Your attitude also plays a major role in how rheumatoid arthritis affects your life.***
See how transforming your outlook can boost your energy levels:
- Lighten up. Treat yourself with compassion. You may need to cut back on your responsibilities so you can protect your health. Focus on your own abilities instead of trying to keep up with others.
- Prepare for setbacks. The road of a person with rheumatoid arthritis is a rollercoaster ride. It is ups and downs. No day is the same as the previous day. Make the most of it. Take it easy on days that you have more pain or fatigue. On good days, make the most of it. Be flexible and accepting of your limitations. Frequent and dramatic fluctuations are typical with rheumatoid arthritis. You’ll probably have easy days and times that are much more challenging. Give yourself permission to rest when you’re feeling under the weather. 👉👉👉4 Easy Tips for Stress Relief
- Avail of support. Even your closest family and friends may find it difficult to understand your fatigue. Look for support groups or online forums where you can meet others who share similar experiences.
There are new and more effective options for treating rheumatoid arthritis that has been introduced during the past two decades. Consult with and follow your doctor’s recommendations to help you to reduce the inflammation that causes fatigue.
Strategies to Consider
- Review and Change your prescription. Definitely have your physician or rheumatologist review your medications. There are now several categories of drugs for rheumatoid arthritis. Discuss the side effects with your doctor and ask about trying a different medication if you experience excessive fatigue.
- Increase mobility. Physical therapy can increase your strength and overall fitness. Your doctor may be able to provide a referral, or you can find someone who specializes in rheumatoid arthritis through the American Physical Therapy Association.
- Manage depression. Rheumatoid arthritis doubles your risk for depression. This is a fact. Let your doctor and loved ones know if you need help. Medication and counseling have a high success rate.
While there is no current cure for rheumatoid arthritis, appropriate self-care and medical treatment can increase the quality of your life. Reduce fatigue so you can feel happier and return to doing the activities you love. Hope this helps! I would love to hear from you!
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Until the next issue!
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