9 Tips for Dealing with Arthritis

Are you having a difficult time dealing with your arthritis? Are you unsure on what you can do for your arthritis? For tips on what you can do to better deal with your arthritis and information on who you can go to for help, I have interviewed therapist Maria Mellano.

Tell me a little bit about yourself.
“I graduated from Smith College School for Social work in 1999 and currently have a full time private practice in Boston. I have worked with a range of adult clients and their families with medical and psychiatric conditions. I utilize a blend of action and traditional methods holding an integrative body oriented focus in the work. I have specialized training through the department of public health chronic disease self-management program.”

What type of impact does arthritis have on someone’s overall life?
“The impact of arthritis depends on the type and severity of one’s condition. Universally, arthritis causes pain and namely pain related to inflammation in and around the joints and stiffness, which can lead to tension around the joints in the muscles. What makes the pain from arthritis particularly difficult is its ‘invisibility’. By invisibility I mean it is present for the sufferer but not visible by the onlooker and can therefore lead to feelings of invalidation and isolation for the person living with the disease. Arthritis is a progressive condition and can cause deformity; such is in the case of Rheumatoid Arthritis. In certain cases the deformity can require surgical intervention. For example joint replacements in the feet and / or hands, which can remedy pain and repair deformity, but also can come with disruption and broader limitation of functioning. Pain, stiffness and deformity can interfere with life activities with friends and family. Arthritis can have significant impact on relationships with others, especially when the person with arthritis is in a care giving role. Another common symptom of arthritis is dealing with fatigue. The fatigue that can accompany a flare up which can come under times of greater stress or can simply come without prediction, seemingly out of the blue. This can make it quite difficult to fulfill obligations related to work and family and can lead to difficult emotions. Difficult emotions such as frustration, sadness, anxiety, helplessness, disappointment and overwhelm can be associated with living with arthritis.”

What are 9 tips for dealing with arthritis?
“The following are my 9 tips for dealing with arthritis:
1. First of all, take your pain seriously. You are not making it up and the impact it has on your life is real.

2. Work with providers you trust and feel heard by. If you do not feel that your providers are listening to you adequately or with empathy, or are taking your condition seriously, change providers.

3. Remember you are your own primary care provider and advocate. Keep lists of all your medications and make sure all your providers know all of your medications. This includes all supplements, over the counter medications and vitamins. Keep track of your symptoms and issues in writing so that when you communicate with your providers, you can use the time most effectively. Sign release of information consents enabling your providers to work with each other as a team. Practice exceptional self-care with solid nutrition, enough rest and exercise that involves movement and stretching that puts minimal stress on joints. For example, water fitness activities, gentle yoga, gyrotonic methods and cycling. Inadequate nutrition, rest and exercise can all contribute to inflammation and therefore pain. Adequate rest, nutrition and exercise can all boost mood, reduce stiffness, improve self-esteem and help maintain a healthy weight.”

4. Maintain a healthy weight to help reduce symptoms of arthritis. Excess weight puts undue pressure on joints and organs. It can exacerbate fatigue, poor mood, thoughts about self and others and make global functioning even more difficult. Maintaining a healthy weight is something one can take action around. Doing something you can take action around can alone make a positive difference in the face of pain that can cause feelings of helplessness and powerlessness.”

5. Attend to your emotions by finding someone you can trust to talk with. Don’t let emotions build up inside of you. Communicate how you feel and deal with conflict as effectively as the situation allows. Honor your boundaries and learn to effectively set limits in your life so that you are living the life you want to be living for yourself and not for others.

6. Develop breathing and meditative practices to help lower the impact of stress and enhance coping.

7. Limit caffeine intake.

8. If you smoke, quit.

9. Drink in moderation.

What type of professional help is available for someone that has arthritis?
“Psychotherapists can help you deal with the effects of living with arthritis and the underlying difficulties. A primary medical provider who is sensitive to your needs and listens empathically is a good choice. Naturopathic doctors who can offer a holistic perspective to care including nutrition, supplements and lifestyle change. Aquatic fitness options available at most gyms and local community centers. Find nutritional experts to help guide you with food choice and help your body’s natural healing capacity. An array of integrative and expressive therapies such as psychodrama, art, music and movement therapy, acupuncture, hypnotherapy, energy healing methods, cranial sacral and massage therapy can all contribute positively to healing.

Overall, remember that you are your own primary care provider responsible for doing the healing work. No one else will do it for you and there is support out there to guide you along the way.”

Thank you Maria for doing the interview on tips for dealing with arthritis. For more information on Maria Mellano or her work you can check out her website on www.MariaMellanoTherapy.com.

Recommended Readings:
How to Keep a Journal to Improve Mental Health
The Effects of Exercise on Mental Health
Tips for Coping with Mental & Physical Disability