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Crystal Hann health WISE Living with Arthritis There are hundreds of different types of arthritis, and knowing which one you have will help you take the right steps towards managing it. Two of the most prevalent forms of arthritis are Rheumatoid Arthritis and Osteoarthritis. While both types involve stiff and painful joints and limited range of motion, Rheumatoid Arthritis tends to be the more severe of the two. It is an autoimmune disorder where the immune system attacks the soft lining of your joints. This causes fluid to build up within your joints, which results in swelling, pain, and stiffness. Rheumatoid arthritis can affect more than just the joints and can cause inflammation in the lungs, heart, and eyes. Osteoarthritis, on the other hand, is a degenerative joint disorder where the cartilage cushion- ing your joints breaks down over time. This causes your bones to rub against one another, exposing small nerves which results in pain. Unlike RA, OA’s degenerative nature is limited solely to the joints and is a little more predictable. Having arthritis can take both a physical and emotional toll on some- one. People with chronic diseases often mourn over the person they were before they were affected and some struggle to accept these changes. They are more susceptible to depres- sion and anxiety, and might even give up on everything. That is why it is important to reach out to loved ones and credible support groups early after you’ve received your diagnosis. Arthritis support groups are especially helpful because you’re around others who know what you’re going through. Other members who have had arthritis for longer may have helpful tips that might make your own journey easier. There 76 Crystal Han is a freelance writer and artist. She graduated from San José State University with a BFA in Animation/Illustration and is an aspiring novelist, currently working on two books. L iving with arthritis can be disruptive and distressing. The pain and stiffness it causes can make simple tasks like putting on shoes or cooking dinner exhausting. While there is no cure for arthritis yet, there are plenty of ways to continue doing the things you love in spite of it. are also plenty of professional physical therapists and psychologists that can help you find constructive ways to work through problems you’re facing. Everyone’s experience with arthritis is different, however there are things that are beneficial for anyone struggling with arthritis: Staying Active Moving may be the last thing you want to do when you’re in pain, but keeping your joints in motion prevents them from deteriorating more. Exercise strengthens the muscles that support your painful joints. It can improve and increase the joints’ range of motion, boost your mood, and help you lose excess weight. A good physical therapist can help you find a safe exercise program that will help you develop your strength and joint mobility. With a little trial and error, you can learn what your body will tolerate and how much tolerance you can build up. You can also find ways to continue the activities that you love. For example, if gardening is your passion but you can’t stoop or kneel anymore, you can get raised flower beds instead. There are even runners diagnosed with RA who have found ways to continue running. Balance Activity with Rest Maintaining a balance of work and leisure activities is important for your health. Taking short breaks and alter- nating between heavy and light activities throughout the day will help you main- tain that balance. Allow extra time for rest on days where you have big tasks or plans. Find ways to break big jobs into smaller, more manageable parts so that you don’t overtax your joints. GILROY • MORGAN HILL • SAN MARTIN february/march 2019 Respecting Your Pain/Fatigue The pain and fatigue caused by RA and OA can be a massive hindrance, but no matter what’s at stake, it’s better not to push through those tough times. Pain and fatigue are the primary ways your body signals that something is wrong. Although it can be frustrating to listen to your body, ultimately toning it down during times of intense pain or exhaustion will allow you to get back to doing the things you want faster. Self-Help Devices If your range of motion is limited, using reachers and grabbing devices is especially helpful. Lever faucets and door handles are easier on finger joints than the twisting kind. Getting grips for utensils, pens, and grooming aids are also helpful. Having arthritis means you’ll deal with more uncertainty in your life than most. Many types of arthritis have an on-again off-again pattern, where physical effects can change from day to day or even hour to hour. If you prepare yourself for this up and down nature, you’ll be less likely to be disappointed with your life. When things get bad, it helps to remind yourself that a bad day doesn’t mean a bad life. You might have to skip out on a fun outing because of an arthritis flare up, but that doesn’t mean you will never go out again. With patience and self-care, you can get back on top again. Sources: Nar“Is it Rheumatoid Arthritis? The Differences Between RA and OA,” “Frequently Asked Questions about Living with Arthritis,” UW Medicine, orthop.washington. edu/patient-care/articles/arthritis/frequently- asked-questions-about-living-arthritis.html