At the most basic level, arthritis is a condition in which your immune system attacks the tissue in your joints, causing inflammation. A category of conditions with over 100 variations, arthritis hits in many ways, with at least 1 in 5 Canadians who have experienced it as such, and 60% of them said to be women. And by 2040, an estimated 50% more people will be affected. To learn what it’s like, we surveyed 8 anonymous Canadians from different walks of life to help share tips on living with arthritis, and how to best get by. Here’s what they want you to know.
Every day is different
Some are bad
Living with an autoimmune disease is challenging on the best of days, let alone in the heat of a pandemic. “Simple things like driving and buttoning up your shirt become a hassle”, said one of our participants “and you need to be mindful of what may seem small, like fragile fingers (by using the sides of your arms or shoulder to push open doors), or reducing the impact on your knees (by leading with your stronger leg going up the stairs, and letting the weaker one take over when it’s time to make your way down). And one of the biggest challenges with arthritis is gauging the difference between the way someone feels and the way they appear. As with any other #invisibleillness, it’s hard to tell them apart.”
Some are better
Though life with arthritis is unlike any other, and it may have taken you some time to get over the initial shock of a life-changing condition, know that many people are both living, and functioning, with arthritis of all kinds. So, while some days feel like the flu and others like your body is under attack, on many of them, you are still capable of living a life you love.
Zero in on your power
When pain hinders one part of you, find strength in another. One of our participants told us that her diagnosis meant the end of her running career. And though this brought her so many emotions (namely sadness, fear, anger and denial), she eventually found power in a strengthened mindset.
On the other hand, many of our other participants found the will to persevere through identifying the things they can do to exercise more control over their condition, rather then focusing on the things they can’t. It turns out what they can do is actually a lot. This includes eating well, and ensuring the lifestyle keeps up with what the body needs. And while the everyday overhaul was challenging, they claim it well worth the results. “I couldn’t have done it without the close assistance of my doctors (so I would suggest you don’t, either)”.
The right foods can help
And the wrong foods won’t. Because they’re bad for so much more than your joints, do your best to cut foods high in refined sugar, high-fructose corn syrup and refined grains, and swap in high-fiber, micronutrients and phytonutrients (also known as fruit, vegetables and organic everything). You may also want to integrate more fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, sardines and trout, which are high in omega-3 and have been known to have strong anti-inflammatory properties. Some people can find it challenging to include fish in their regular diets, but omega-3 supplements can help there.
“I’m new to supplementing, but my doctor prescribed me glucosamine and so far, so good!” It’s true! Glucosamine is key here. One of your body’s natural compounds, it surrounds your joints and acts as a cushion for impact. Now, as arthritis progresses, the layer of glucosamine becomes thinner and stiffer, making your joints harder to manage. Supplementing will help your body generate the materials needed to re-establish the disintegrating cushion, providing relief. Turmeric has also been known to provide relief from inflammation. If you want our recommendation, go with this plant-based glucosamine (which relieves joint stiffness from osteoarthritis in 3 days), or this antioxidant-rich turmeric.
Ask for help
Independence is important to everyone, so we understand why it’s important to you. But attempting to maintain it when you are simply incapable isn’t doing anyone any favours. Do what you can, and when you can, but when you need help, make sure to ask. Having a candid conversation with your friends and loved ones about what you are experiencing, how it is affecting you and the ways they can help is a great way to strike a balance and stay on the same page.
Don’t be so hard on yourself
Being diagnosed with a chronic illness is enough to destabilize the most firmly planted people, so don’t feel bad about the confusion, frustration and disappointment you may be feeling. We know you won’t make every party and life can be hard on the sidelines. Allow yourself to feel your feelings, but don’t get lost in them. And remember that though it’s OK to throw yourself a pity party, don’t overstay your welcome. If the feelings persist, seek out professional help with understanding them.
1. InformedHealth.org [Internet]. Cologne, Germany: Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG); 2006-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK65083/
2. The Truth About Arthritis. Arthritis Socity. Retrieved from https://arthritis.ca/about-arthritis/what-is-arthritis/the-truth-about-arthritis