Will changing my social life help my arthritis?

The pain of arthritis may lead you to cut out social and leisure activities. It's important for you to find pain-free ways to socialize. Studies show that maintaining social ties is important to your emotional health and ability to cope with your condition. Like other activities that are limited by your condition, you may just have to approach the activities you love to do a bit differently.

Feet First

  • Insert cushioned insoles in shoes before you leave the house to reduce stress on your lower limbs while walking. You can purchase these at a drugstore or supermarket.
  • Wear a lightweight athletic shoe with extra support for the back of your heel and with a padded midsole that absorbs shock. Have a friend or seamstress convert the lacing to Velcro to make them easier to get on and off.
  • Ask your physical or occupational therapist if a cane or special insoles that are molded for your feet, called orthotics, can help you be more active. Your therapist can also provide walkers, splints, braces, or crutches if you need them.

Plan to Rest

  • Plan short rest breaks in between errands to keep fatigue and muscle weakness at bay.
  • Use a pillow in your car and even at the movies to give your lower-spine support. You can also buy portable seats with backs to make bleacher seating more comfortable at sports events.
  • Break complex motions that involve both bending and twisting, such as getting out of a car, into smaller, separate actions to avoid joint strain and discomfort. For instance, first sit on the car seat and then swing your legs in together.

Relaxing at Home

  • When watching TV or sitting for long periods of time, bend and point your toes forward and then flex them back. This can help prevent your muscles from tightening and joints from stiffening.
  • Avoid chairs and couches that have deep cushions. Instead, sit in straight-backed chairs. This will make getting up and sitting down easier.
  • Get a headset so that you don't have to cradle the phone receiver during conversations. Headsets have come down considerably in price. You can find them in general stores, such as Radio Shack, Target, and Kmart.

On the Town

  • Use a portable cart instead of carrying heavy bags. If you must carry things, don't carry more than 10% of your body weight. For instance, if you weigh 150, that's 15 pounds. Or carry items on the same side as an affected joint so that you don't place extra stress on that side as you try to balance the weight. Keep items that you are carrying close to the center of your body.
  • Use a writing pillow or bookstand to prop books or magazines up while reading. You can also use a bookstand that holds the pages down.
  • Use enlarged knobs on lamps and electronic appliances. Your doctor, physical therapist, or occupational therapist can tell you where to purchase them.
  • Use nylon or canvas luggage with wheels instead of heavy, leather pieces or bulky duffle bags that you have to carry.
  • If you feel that going out to restaurants is too taxing, ask your friends over for a potluck dinner. Or order in. You can use disposable plates to make cleaning up easier.
  • Socialize by attending arthritis support groups. Support groups offer opportunities to share your concerns and fears with people who understand firsthand what you are going through.

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